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Southampton education leaders launch ‘Caversham Covenant’ to provide support during Ofsted inspections

Education leaders in Southampton are today (Mon 22 Jan) joining together to sign up to a new initiative aimed at providing support for schools and responsible bodies to help each other through the ‘strains of Ofsted inspections.’

Named after Caversham Primary, the school that came tragically into the media last year when its head, Ruth Perry, took her own life following an Ofsted inspection, the ‘Caversham Covenant’ is a public declaration of how all parties can all work together to support each other.

Southampton City Council will meet school leaders from local maintained schools, Trusts and unions, at an event today, to physically sign the document, before it is shared with all schools in the area.

This comes on the day Ofsted inspections resume nationally, following a brief pause announced at the start of the year by the new Chief Inspector to allow for improved training for inspectors in dealing with mental health and wellbeing concerns in school staff during inspection.

The Covenant consists of a series of promises and pacts, including:

·       A supervision and support offer for all heads, with a 'buddy' arrangement in place for those who are in the Ofsted ‘window', so that heads know there is someone they can talk to before, during and after inspection,

·       A directory of staff with Ofsted experience that can be called on in the event of concerns about the conduct of an inspection arising whilst the inspection team are still on site,

·       Recognition that school improvement work is a 'broad church', encompassing peer review, working with specialists, and negotiation between Trusts and the Local Authority, not just a dress rehearsal for Ofsted,

·       And an understanding that for negative Ofsted inspections, the default solution is to support the head and current leadership team to address the issues causing concern.

NAHT Regional Head for South Central, Elizabeth Salisbury, said: “This is an admirable and inspiring move by local education leaders in Southampton, to come together and do what they can to ease some of the damaging strain Ofsted inspection can put on a school and school’s head teacher and leadership team. While we have at the start of this year heard some encouraging words promising change from the new Chief Inspector nationally, there are still local schools in the Ofsted ‘window’ in Southampton who are in need of support now. It is great to see education leaders stepping up to help themselves and working with local authorities and elected officials to improve the situation as best they can.”

The parties involved in the scheme are: Aspire Community trust, Bridge Education Trust, Reach Co-operative Trust, Southampton Co-operative Learning Trust, Southampton Local Authority, Southampton Council, school leaders’ union NAHT, Southampton NEU, Southampton NASUWT, Primary Heads Conference, and SEF (the Southampton secondary heads group).

First published 22 January 2024