Award-winning headteacher resigns after Ofsted inspection leaves her ‘devastated’

‘Unduly harsh’ accountability system is driving out school leaders, unions warn

Eleanor Busby
Education Correspondent
Wednesday 15 January 2020 19:06 GMT
Award-winning headteacher resigns after Ofsted inspection leaves her ‘devastated’

An award-winning headteacher has quit after an Ofsted inspection “extinguished” her passion for the job and left her feeling “powerless”.

Lynne Fox, head of Bramhall High School near Stockport, will resign in the summer after the school was rated as “requires improvement” despite improving its GCSE results.

In a heartfelt resignation letter to governors, Ms Fox said she had “lost her faith in the system” following the Ofsted inspection, and no longer wanted to face any more “poorly informed judgements”.

The resignation has prompted criticism from headteacher unions, which say the “unduly harsh” accountability system is driving out school leaders from the profession at a time of shortages.

The Ofsted report criticised Bramhall High School for allowing pupils to start their GCSEs in Year 9 as they said it “restricted” learning and meant not all pupils benefitted from a “high-quality curriculum”.

Ms Fox, who has been a headteacher for 17 years, was left “devastated” by the autumn ruling — which she said prompted hundreds of parents to write to the chief inspector to complain.

“This school is the strongest it has ever been,” she told The Independent. “This has not done anything to help our school and actually now it is going into a period of turbulence because the head is leaving.”

In the resignation letter to governors, Ms Fox wrote: “I am powerless to change things. I do put my heart and soul into all I do and this desire has now been completely extinguished by this Ofsted experience.”

Ms Fox won a silver award at the Pearson Teaching Awards last year for turning Bramhall High School around and securing “outstanding” results.

Speaking to The Independent about Ofsted, Ms Fox said: “For the first time in my life, I have struggled to come to work. I have dealt with mergers and redundancies as a head and I have got through everything.

“But since doing this, I cannot see the value of doing it.”

“Ultimately when you stay in this role Ofsted will come back and I am not prepared to my put myself through that again. It is a lottery who comes in and what they decide,” she added.

From September last year, Ofsted moved its focus away from pupils’ exam results and grades and adopted a new, broader assessment of “quality of education” as part of changes to inspections.

Leaders of academy chains have recently accused Ofsted of favouring middle-class children with its new inspection regime, which values a broad curriculum.

They object to schools being marked down for giving pupils three years to study for the exams rather than two as they say starting GCSE preparation earlier can help pupils on free school meals.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “We are concerned that the new inspection framework is placing too much emphasis on the operation of key stage 3 programmes in schools, and we are talking to Ofsted about these concerns.”

He added: “The inspection system often has a demoralising effect on school leaders and their staff and it needs to be reformed. This is caused largely by the use of blunt descriptors such as ‘requires improvement’, which are unduly harsh and allow for no nuance.”

Nick Brook, deputy general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Inspectors are being asked to do too much, in too short a time, and with too great a degree of subjectivity. All of which is leading to rushed and ill thought-out judgements — with sadly career defining consequences for headteachers.”

“Education standards in this country have transformed in the last 25 years, with 86 per cent of schools now good or better. It is a great shame to see the very people that have led this improvement being undermined and driven out,” Mr Brook added.

An Ofsted spokesperson said: “We are saddened that the headteacher has made the decision to resign, especially as our inspection team judged the school’s leadership and management as good.

“Beyond this, the inspection report explicitly commented on the good job that she and her senior staff had done in improving the school.

“The report also recognised the school’s improvements in the pupils’ behaviour, personal development and GCSE results, while pointing out the improvements needed to the quality of education.

“However, we do understand the strength of feeling among the school community about the head’s departure.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in