Bubbles and Labels

Ruth Perry, the tragedy of negative judgements

Inadequate”: that’s it. 

Ruth Perry was the head of a school in Reading that before Covid was rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. 

The inspection this winter ended with a report of downgrading the school to “inadequate”: Ruth was the only person to know it and couldn’t share that judgment with anyone as long as the report was not officially published.

“We are in no doubt that Ruth’s death –her family said was a direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome of an Ofsted inspection at her school. We do not for an instant recognise Ofsted’s ‘inadequate’ judgement as a true reflection of Ruth’s exemplary leadership or of the wonderful school she led”

In recent days dr Martin Hanbury, a school leader, quitted as an Ofsted inspector, because “he felt that his role could cause ‘more harm than good’ ”, according to the BBC Radio 4. 

‘Measuring a cloud with a ruler’

He also declared that the current one-word judgment system is “unfit for purpose”: 

It’s a very simplistic way of describing a really complex system -he said-. It is like to measure a cloud with a ruler”.

Ofsted and the Department of Education defended the “crucial role” of the inspections in upholding education standards and making sure that children are safe at schools. 

The debate is now open. There will be a political, bureaucratic process that would in a certain length of time deliver to the public the “new” role of Ofsted or whatever will come afterwards. 

Tribute to a teacher

Ruth, you are not inadequate, you are outstanding! 

If I could have spoken with you before you took your life, I am sure that I would help you see your good and avoid that tragic decision. 

Because I know how deep negative judgements and labels can be devastating. 

How deep judgements and negative labels can undermine the self-confidence and dignity of a person who honestly works and sacrifices herself to an outstanding commitment as yours was.

Your gesture shows your sensibility and honest dedication to the mission you chose in your life. It is not you or your school inadequate: the judges are, the method of judging is. 

Unfortunately, judging one another -often in secret- is a widespread daily practice, that doesn’t come only from Ofsted.

Such a poison practice reveals a destructive mindset -often based on envy- that we can only tackle by keeping our commitment alive and continue to fulfil our responsibility towards those in our care despite rumours, labels and bubbles.

Ruth, your decision shocked many, including those who judged you and your work: if you ever have the chance to face that moment again, stay and stand firm in your silent daily work that doesn’t judge others but is a good work and delivers good values to others, especially to children.

Now, may you rest in peace! 

What has happened shows how destructive negative judgements can be, especially in a society where media and “social” networks amplify enormously their impact.

The most common victims of such destructive weapons are obviously the most sensible, the most vulnerable, often children and young people.

Tribute to Young People

Following your case, I became more and more determined to pass on to any young person I can reach, the encouragement to never give up, to never consider a negative judgment -whether amid a circle of “friends” or at school- as a personal failure but a challenge to feed your personal development.

We live in a society full of bubbles and labels that spread the poison of negativity in human relations, causing disruptions and destroying individual lives.

You, youngsters, only carry this one label:

I am I”. Period.

The underlying message clearly is: I am good!

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