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Inquest into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry who took her own life after bad Ofsted rating hears inspections cannot be paused even if staff are distressed


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An Ofsted school inspection cannot be paused even if it is causing extreme stress and anxiety to the teachers under review, the inquest into the death of primary head Ruth Perry heard this morning.

Mrs Perry took her own life because she feared her family would be financially ruined if she lost her job after her Caversham Primary School was downgraded to ‘inadequate’, following a disastrous Ofsted inspection in November last year.

The inquest into her death in January this year has previously been told by Ofsted staff that Mrs Perry’s colleagues could have asked to ‘pause’ the two-day review as the headteachers mental health deteriorated rapidly.

But this morning Berkshire Coroner Heidi Connor asked Ofsted National Director for Education Chris Russell whether ‘pausing an inspection’ was a ‘real entity’ or ‘mystical creature that has been created’ to answer criticism following Mrs Perry’s death.

She asked Mr Russell: ‘How can someone know that pausing an inspection is a possibility?’

Ruth Perry took her own life because she feared her family would be financially ruined if she lost her job after her Caversham Primary School was downgraded to 'inadequate'

Ruth Perry took her own life because she feared her family would be financially ruined if she lost her job after her Caversham Primary School was downgraded to ‘inadequate’

Berkshire Coroner Heidi Connor asked Ofsted chief Chris Russell whether 'pausing an inspection' was a 'real entity' or 'mystical creature that has been created' to answer criticism following Mrs Perry's death (Stock photo)

Berkshire Coroner Heidi Connor asked Ofsted chief Chris Russell whether ‘pausing an inspection’ was a ‘real entity’ or ‘mystical creature that has been created’ to answer criticism following Mrs Perry’s death (Stock photo) 

He replied: ‘I don’t want to make policy on the hoof but we have listened and we will look at this.’

Mrs Connor challenged Mr Russell, saying: ‘The possibility to pause an inspection does not exist.’

He replied: ‘No. I would say we need to look at the whole area of when the head teacher should continue with an inspection.’

The coroner then asked him: ‘I don’t see any guidance on [dealing with members of a school’s] senior leadership team becoming distressed? There is no reference [in the Ofsted inspectors’ guidance] which talks about what to do if a teacher becomes stressed.’

He replied: ‘There is no guidance about that.’

The Ofsted director told the court that Mrs Perry would have had to raise the ‘conduct’ of the lead inspector himself, if she was concerned about his behaviour.

Lead inspector Alan Derry has been widely criticised throughout the inquest for causing Mrs Perry extreme stress, with his ‘tone’, amid claims that he had had ‘an agenda’ ahead of the scheduled review of the popular primary school.

A photograph of Ruth Perry attached to the fence outside John Rankin Schools in Newbury, Berkshire

A photograph of Ruth Perry attached to the fence outside John Rankin Schools in Newbury, Berkshire

Ms Perry's sister, Professor Julia Waters, previously said the headteacher had experienced the 'worst day of her life' after inspectors reviewed the school on November 15 and 16 last year

Ms Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Waters, previously said the headteacher had experienced the ‘worst day of her life’ after inspectors reviewed the school on November 15 and 16 last year

Professor Julia Waters arriving at the hearing

Professor Julia Waters arriving at the hearing

Mrs Connor asked Mr Russell: ‘If the headteacher has concerns about the conduct of the lead inspector, who would she raised those concerns with, the lead inspector?’

The Ofsted director replied: ‘Yes.’

The Coroner has previously asked Mrs Perry’s GP and her colleagues whether there was a ‘direct link’ between the Ofsted inspection and her death.

All those questioned replied: ‘Yes’.

Last week Mrs Perry’s husband told the inquest his wife had had ‘dark thoughts’ about ending her own life, following the Ofsted inspection.

The headteacher felt she had ‘let everyone down’ when the watchdog downgraded the Reading primary school from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’, Jonathan Perry said in a statement.

He added that she worried about the impact on the wider community, fearing it would cause her neighbours’ house prices to plummet and that locals would ‘angry’ with her as a result.

The Perrys were due to exchange contracts on a new home on the first day of the inspection, the court has been told.

And her GP, Mr Black, told the court she became worried that she would lose her job and the family become ruined financially, following the Ofsted inspection, as she was ‘main breadwinner’.

  • For help, call Samaritans for free on 116 123 or visit samaritans.org 



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