Ofsted was 'brutal' says head who resigned on TV's School

'When we are asked if we are ok – we all say yes, don’t we? I think the time has come to say no. It’s not ok.'

Helen Ward

BBC2 programme School

Surreal, anger-inducing and a sinking feeling in the gut – headteacher James Pope has described what the Ofsted inspection depicted in the BBC Two programme School felt like at the time.

Mr Pope, the head of Marlwood School in South Gloucestershire, was shown in episode three of the programme, having to find £2.8 million in savings in four years, under intense pressure and finally resigning citing personal reasons.

His departure was announced after an Ofsted visit, which in a blog post published earlier this month, Mr Pope described as: “brutal”.

"By breaktime on day one, two hours into the inspection, I know we are in trouble as the word ‘inadequate’ is launched for the first time by the lead inspector.   

"If you have experienced it, you will know the sinking feeling in your gut. They listened to the context: save £2 million pounds in two and a half years and improve the school – interesting, not relevant, not in the framework."  

“As I write I this I am looking at my notes from the day one ‘feedback’ session and the anger rises in me,” the blogpost continues.

“It is so surreal, it is so contradictory, it isn’t what the Ofsted leaders have been saying for the past 10 months across the media and Twitter – the historical data seems to be all that matters in this inspection.

“When talking about teaching and learning the maths inspector reports that he hasn’t seen anything less than good and some excellent practice. The English inspector agrees. Teaching and learning – inadequate.” 

Mr Pope says that the worst moment was having to tell staff and students in assembly, as they sat there hoping that Ofsted had rated them as "good", that they had been placed in special measures.

But he adds that he felt lucky that he had supportive colleagues in the trust and was not a head on his own.

And he concludes: "I know that there will be teachers, support staff and leaders who will have got up this morning and have had to take a big deep breath to face the reality of what is in front of them. As a headteacher? The reality is that when we are asked if we are OK – we all say yes, don’t we? I think the time has come to say ‘no’. It’s not ok.”

Since School aired earlier this week, Mr Pope has been praised for his dignity.


Tes columnist Tom Rogers has argued that he thought Ofsted should be scrapped in the wake of the episode saying it demonstrated how the vicious cycle of a bad Ofsted judgement makes teachers walk.

The series, which looks into the school funding crisis, has shown in previous episodes how hardworking teachers are being expected to take large pay cuts so that their academy can make ends meet. The next episode, on Tuesday 27 November, will follow students with special educational needs.

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Helen Ward

Helen Ward

Helen Ward is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @teshelen

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