Undermined by inspection

8th January 2010 at 00:00

It was with much regret that I read your report on the inquest into the death of headteacher Irene Hogg (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 of which I was headteacher (in England) 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 the roll. These were conditions that had been imposed on us by the local authority. Despite this, the inspector deemed them 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 unit. We also questioned Ofsted's lack of consistency. The appeal was overturned.

In the four years when 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 outcomes were the best within the county's referral units.

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

Caroline Barnes, former pupil referral unit headteacher, Cambridgeshire.

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