Criticism must be constructive

1st January 2010 at 00:00

It is with much regret that I read the report on the inquest into the death of headteacher Irene Hogg ("Pressure of inspection 'drove Scottish primary head to suicide'", December 11).

I can fully understand why she would feel "shell-shocked" and that her professional life had been "undermined".

Last year the Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) of which I was headteacher was visited by an Ofsted inspector who spent one day with us in order to complete a Section 5 inspection. As a result we were placed in special measures. His decision was based on the fact that not all students attended the unit for 25 hours and that we had students with educational statements on role. These were conditions that had been imposed on us by the local authority. Despite this, the inspector deemed these to be serious irregularities and judged that we were inadequate in all areas.

I was devastated and resigned giving three months notice. During my notice period we lodged an appeal against the decision on the grounds that the inadequacies identified were not issues under the control of the PRU. We also questioned Ofsted's lack of consistency. The appeal was overturned.

In the four years that I was headteacher my team worked on the points for improvement identified at a previous inspection, when we were judged to be good with outstanding aspects. All our students left the unit with external qualifications and our exam outcomes where the best within the county's PRUs.

The effects of the inspection have been far reaching for the unit and its students and staff. Ofsted needs to take more responsibility for the effects that its process has on individuals and the way that inspections are conducted needs to be far more constructive.

Caroline Barnes, Former Pupil Referral Unit headteacher, Manea, March, Cambridgeshire.

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