The Observer reports the extremely chilling fact that the stress caused by Ofsted school inspections has been cited in at least 10 coroner’s reports concerning the deaths of teachers.
The topic has been brought to light by the recent case of Ruth Perry, a headteacher who killed herself after her school rating was downgraded by Ofsted.
Death is of course only the most extreme health outcome of these inspections:
…an Observer investigation has found that the pressure of school inspections has led to headteachers suffering heart attacks, strokes and nervous breakdowns, and as a helpline for heads reports that the vast majority of crisis calls it receives are now about Ofsted.
Sadly this is not at all surprising to me when I think about the teachers I have personally known. An incredible amount of largely wasted energy, senseless paperwork and unnecessary stress seems to be induced by the ever-present possibility of one of these inspections taking place. It’s hard to imagine that teaching quality doesn’t suffer as a consequence.
Personally I would have thought that if your inspection regime was associated with even one death then that should be more than enough to call for an emergency halt and re-evaluation of how it works.
Or even if it should exist at all. A quick search suggests to me that there’s not much evidence out there that Ofsted inspections are even all that effective when it comes to educational outcomes.
A 2016 report by the Education Policy Institute suggests that Ofsted ratings are largely dependent on the school’s intake. Amongst other things they find:
…a significant inconsistency between the identified deterioration in academic standards and the resulting Ofsted judgement
schools with more disadvantaged pupils are less likely to be judged ‘good’ or ‘outstanding, while schools with low disadvantage and high prior attainment are much more likely to be rated highly…
As Frank Coffield notes for the British Educational Research Association, amongst other harms, this creates a perverse incentive:
The very schools that need most help are further harmed by inaccurate and biased Ofsted reports that make the recruitment and retention of teachers even more difficult.
Overall he considers that Ofsted “does more harm than good” and uses methods that are “invalid, unreliable and unjust”.
In a different study, Leslie Rosenthal finds that Ofsted inspections do have an impact on exam performance. There’s just one problem:
It is found that there exists a small but well-determined adverse, negative effect associated with the Ofsted inspection event for the year of the inspection.
And there’s no detectable effect apparent in the exam results for the year after the Ofsted inspection occurred.