Education consultants say headteachers approaching in record numbers, after inspection ruled a factor in Ruth Perry’s suicide.

The number of schools in England filing complaints to Ofsted about bullying inspectors has risen to “ridiculous” levels, education leaders warned this weekend.

Delivering her verdict on Thursday, coroner Heidi Connor concluded that a “rude and intimidating” Ofsted inspection was a contributory factor in the suicide of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry in January this year. In 2022-23, a total of 747 schools made formal complaints about Ofsted inspections, up from 454 the previous year, Ofsted’s annual report says.


But education consultants told the Observer this number may rise further, because they are receiving an unprecedented number of approaches from distressed heads unhappy with the behaviour of an inspector.

They say these complaints are falling on deaf ears, with Ofsted failing to investigate poor conduct fully. The Observer has seen standard response letters to a number of schools, which say that Ofsted will accept no additional evidence or witness statements or enter into any discussion with the school about an inspector’s conduct. They add that concerns will be passed on to the inspector’s regional manager and the outcome cannot be discussed with the school.

Julie Price Grimshaw, a former inspector who now advises schools, said: “I had three heads contact me on just one day this week with serious inspector conduct issues. One was in tears. It’s getting ridiculous.”

Price Grimshaw says she has had more calls than ever about “brutal” inspections this academic year, possibly because heads are feeling “more inclined to reach out for support” after hearing about Perry’s experience.

But she added: “Ofsted do not seem to be in the least bit interested in inspector conduct.” She claimed many local authorities and academy trusts have a “blacklist” of particular inspectors who have upset local schools in the past, but can’t actually stop those individuals turning up.

The Observer revealed last weekend that inspectors were accusing Ofsted of misleading Perry’s inquest by claiming that “reducing stress” was a “core value” when training inspectors. The coroner said in her summing up that they had been unable to provide any evidence of this beyond a two-minute reference on a slide alongside other points. She also described Ofsted’s claims that inspections could be paused if a head was showing signs of severe stress as “mythical”.

Responding to the coroner’s verdict Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, said: “We have started to develop training for all inspectors on recognising and responding to visible signs of anxiety.” She added that “as a first step” inspections would be delayed by a day to bring all lead school inspectors together. Training will, she said, focus on anxiety and how to pause an inspection.

She said: “From next week, we will provide all schools with a number to call if they have concerns about their inspection. This will put them directly in touch with someone senior from Ofsted.”

The head of a further education college serving a very deprived community in England said she is complaining to Ofsted about the “highly unprofessional conduct” of one of their team of inspectors.

“The inspector aggressively questioned several staff to the point where one was so upset they had to walk out. They are still scarred by it,” she said. “I know I can’t ever put some of those teachers through an inspection again.”

The head reported this inspector’s behaviour several times to the inspection leader, but the inspector in question “denied everything”.

“We’re compiling a complaint because it doesn’t feel right to just take it,” she said. “This inspector shouldn’t be inspecting again.”

One recent Ofsted letter, shared with the Observer, noted that a school had complained about different instances in which the lead inspector was “rude” and “hostile” and refused to listen. The letter said: “I can confirm your concerns have been passed on [to the inspector’s line manager]. It would not be appropriate to comment further on the outcome of this process.”

Paul Garvey, a former inspector who now helps schools prepare for Ofsted, said: “If you’ve got the wrong personality in charge of an inspection who is bullying people, even if there is a complaint, they will just keep on doing it.”

Garvey says he is “often” contacted by schools who want help writing a complaint about a bad inspection. “The basis of it is almost always inspector conduct,” he said.

In the UK and Ireland, Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123, or email or In the US, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 1-800-273-8255. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline is 13 11 14. Other international helplines can be found at

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