I WAS shocked - but not surprised - to read that the deaths of four primary school teachers have been linked to Office for Standards in Education inspection ("Inquests link four deaths to inspection," TES, April 21).
I am the deputy head of a junior school. I have a 0.5 teaching commitment and last September I appointed a lively 24-year-old teacher trained in New Zealand with excellent college reports and school references as my "partner" teacher.
The very next week the school was inspected by a highly-critical OFSTED team. It was my "partner" teacher's first week in school with a difficult new class; she didn't know the children's names and she was rapidly making judgments about their ability and endeavouring to develop a relationship with each individual child.
Imagine my anger when she came to me in tears with a slip of paper from OFSTED which summarily dismissed her as "unsatisfactory". Her confidence was shattered.
I managed to persuade her that the inspectors had not tken her circumstances into account and that she should ignore the conclusions. Fortunately, she is a plucky girl and was determined to prove the inspectors wrong.
She quickly established herself, built a strong rapport with the class, gained the support and respect of parents and achieved excellent results. By failing to take into account the fact that she was a new teacher, OFSTED had totally misjudged her.
OFSTED really needs to be more sensitive to the circumstances of individual teachers and it needs to acknowledge the pressures they are under to achieve target results. The language used in reports is crucial. It needs to be more encouraging and supportive and it needs to focus on professional development rather than personal criticism.
The tragic deaths of Pamela Relf, James Patton, Janet Watson and Jenny Knibb serve as a warning to us all, and particularly to Mr Woodhead.