If primary teaching is a loaded gun, then OFSTED pulls the trigger
Headteacher Ruth Perry’s death is a warning to teachers across the country: the education system doesn’t care about you and it never will.
With wages that barely keep up with inflation, 12-hour days with no breaks, piles of books to take home and a culture of fear and backstabbing, it’s no wonder why thousands leave the teaching profession every year.
I should know. I was one of them.
An all too common feeling
In 2022, I left the education sector for good. Over 8 years, it made me feel useless even at my best, with my successes ignored and my mistakes honed on with laser precision. At my lowest point in 2015, I stood in a shower, tears running down my face. I wondered whether life would be easier if I just didn’t exist.
The worst part of all was seeing how common this feeling was. They made you feel like it was normal.
In my many years of teaching I saw a lot of things. Most of them were bad.
I’ve seen brilliant, experienced teachers beaten down to nothing. I’ve had assistant heads walk into my classroom and burst into tears because they couldn’t handle it anymore. The workload is too great, the expectations too high.
So many amazing teachers I knew have left. Those who have stayed have done so out of feelings of misplaced obligation, or fear they couldn’t do anything else with their lives. The way I felt, the way Ruth felt, and the way many teachers feel right now is so common. And that is the disgusting reality we face today.
Teaching robbed me of my dignity and self worth. But I kept going for 7 more years.
Term after term, watching colleagues go behind people’s backs to year leaders, SLT demanding people sacrifice lunch for mandatory meetings, endless requests with no time to finish them, and parents who felt their children could do no wrong.
And that’s just a small part of it.
I felt helpless. I can’t even imagine how Ruth must have felt. The heartbreak when she discovered her school’s new OFSTED rating.
She wasn’t even allowed to share the result for 54 days. 54 days where her world slowly fell apart.
The tragedy of Ruth Perry
Ruth took her own life after finding out that OFSTED downgraded her school from “outstanding” to “inadequate”.
Like all headteachers, Ruth dedicated her life to educating and inspiring children. She worked at Caversham for 16 years. It’s safe to say that her school was her world, and she loved her work. A passion that should be nurtured, not snuffed out.
Make no mistake; Ruth’s death directly resulted from the OFSTED report. But you’d be hard-pressed to get more than a half-hearted apology from Amanda Spielman, current OFSTED head and CEO of heartlessness.
“I don’t believe that stopping or preventing inspections would be in children’s best interests. Our aim is to raise standards, so that all children get a great education,” she said, almost believing the words coming out of her mouth.
Children above all else, even at the expense of staff. A common narrative drilled into teachers from the very start of their career.
Her message, however, is clear. It’s not me, it’s you.
If you’re thinking of teaching, don’t.
OFSTED is a vehicle of tyranny and the #1 reason teaching in the UK is in such a sorry state.
It brings untold mental destruction to teachers and leaders alike. It crushes even the strongest players in the game. I’ve seen it happen time and time again.
The lack of compassion and understanding in schools is endemic, and it is OFSTED’s fault. At one of the last schools I ever worked at, our headteacher said, word for word, that “your mental health is not my responsibility”.
Was it their fault for saying something so callous? Yes. But they are just part of a much bigger problem. A problem entirely of OFSTED and, by extension, the government’s creation.
To dedicate your entire life to teaching, helping and supporting children, is a noble and selfless act. Being a headteacher provides a sense of ownership, that you are responsible not just for the children, but also your staff.
Inadequate ratings are a horrific result. They should come with extensive mental health support and guidance for those affected. Instead, you’re given a laundry list of why you’re terrible at your job.
Ruth put her heart and soul into her work, to do what was best for the children in her care. OFSTED took that away from her. Proper mental health support won’t undo the tragedy her family (and colleagues) had to face, but it can help prevent it happening again in the future. To both senior staff and those on the front lines.
What sort of reality do we live in where Love Island contestants receive greater care and support than teachers do?
Posters slapped above the staff toilet sinks listing “20 mindful activities” just doesn’t cut it anymore.