Keegan: ‘I’d have punched Ofsted inspector’

Education secretary makes claim after hearing about 'rude' inspectors at school

Education secretary makes claim after hearing about 'rude' inspectors at school

8 Mar 2024, 11:42

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The education secretary has said she would have “punched” disrespectful Ofsted inspectors that ran the rule over a school that she recently visited.

Gillian Keegan made the statement during a question-and-answer event at the Association of School and College Leaders annual conference this morning.

The senior Conservative recalled feeling “shocked” after hearing about the inspectors’ conduct as “you don’t expect somebody to come in and not be respectful”.

“I heard recently actually from a fantastic school I went into, [and] they told me how their Ofsted experience had gone,” she told the audience.

“I was shocked, I was actually shocked. I thought, ‘God, if I’d met these people, I’d have probably punched them.’ They were really rude.”

‘Completely unacceptable’

Matt Newman, national officer at the FDA union, which represents inspectors, said her comments were “completely unacceptable”.

“Ofsted inspectors are hard-working, decent people who are passionate about what they do.

“For a minister to suggest that it is acceptable to assault inspectors is irresponsible and dangerous. It will only serve to undermine the credibility of the inspection process.”

Keegan added that the “most important thing” in schools is “getting good people, retaining good people, continuing the professional development of good people, [and] listening and respecting to good people”.

“You expect people to be rude to you when you’re a politician,” she continued.

“But when you’re trying to run a school and change lives you don’t expect somebody to come in and not be respectful.”

Ofsted boss responds to Keegan comments

Keegan noted that after meeting headteacher Ruth Perry’s loved ones and reflecting on what happened, she decided “the biggest thing that we needed to change was the culture” of inspection.

Asked about Keegan’s comments, Ofsted chief inspector Sir Martyn Oliver said he thought “people should act with professionalism, courtesy, empathy and respect on both sides”.

“I think [Keegan’s comments are] referring to a previous period, I’m much more interested in a fresh start and calming down tensions. That’s in far better interests for the children and professionals in the country going forward.”

UNISON head of education Mike Short said: “Clearly there’s much that can and should be improved in the way Ofsted inspections are carried out. But to suggest punching people is an appropriate reaction is not becoming of a government minister.

“Making light of violence in schools when staff are increasingly likely to face assaults while doing their job is in very poor taste. Ofsted inspectors are already dealing with a great deal of hostility while they work. So much for showing respect.”

Correction: This article has been amended to add ‘probably’ into Keegan’s comment about punching an inspector

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  1. Phil Hatton

    There is an assumption that the school reflected their experience accurately to Ms Keegan? It is very sad that she said “You expect people to be rude to you when you’re a politician”. Well, no you shouldn’t expect it and those watching PMQs probably think what a bunch of uneducated politicians we have if they treat others so badly. Although I never inspected schools I have seen senior managers in the FE sector react with horror when asked for evidence of a statement that they have made such as our safeguarding or our teaching is outstanding (the triangulation required to make judgements) and have actually said “don’t you believe me?” when asked to “show me how you know that?”. Sadly many schools have an almost irrational fear of Ofsted that will take many years to change.

  2. Dave Spart

    She was out of her depth when she was Skills Minister. This utterly bankrupt and discredited government has really now scraped through the bottom of the barrel.