A headteacher grew “very, very teary” and had a “strong physical reaction” to being told her school would likely be categorised as “inadequate”, an inquest into her death has been told.
Ruth Perry’s family says she took her own life following that very Ofsted inspection.
Her sister, Professor Julia Waters, previously said Ms Perry had the “worst day of her life” after inspectors reviewed the school on 15 and 16 November last year.
On the first day of the inquest into the headteacher’s death, lead inspector Allen Derry, who visited her school in November 2022, said she made comments like she “wouldn’t be able to show her face again” after the results of the review were revealed to her.
Senior coroner Heidi Connor told the court that Ofsted’s rating did not fall “within the scope” of the inquest, but that the inquest would explore the impact of the inspection on Ms Perry.
While the school, Caversham Primary in Reading, was found to be “good” in every category, safeguarding concerns meant leadership and management were judged to be “inadequate”.
The coroner heard that dragged the entire rating down, putting the school at risk of special measures, and of being turned into an academy – with senior leadership team members at risk of losing their jobs.
Mr Derry said Ms Perry kept repeating “it’s not looking good is it?” when he questioned her about gaps in the school’s safeguarding record.
He said he ended the meeting early, and the coroner read a witness statement from another teacher who described Ms Perry as being flustered and incoherent.
Later, when she received the results of the review, Mr Derry said she became “very upset, very, very tearful”, and seemed in “physical pain”.
At the end of the day’s evidence, he was asked by the senior coroner if he had changed the way he conducts inspections since the death of Ms Perry.
“I think that by the nature of what I have been through it has changed me,” he said.
“So it would make sense to think that the way that I have conducted inspections has changed as a result.”
Also appearing at the Inquest was Ofsted’s national director for education, Christopher Russell, who was quizzed about Ofsted’s policies and practises.
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He was repeatedly asked about how stressful headteachers and teachers in positions of leadership find inspections, and was asked about what support exists for them, and their mental health, through the process.
He said inspectors discuss how to reduce stress for school leaders as part of their training.
But he also admitted Ofsted did not have any written guidance on it, describing it as something individuals would know how to manage themselves.
Mr Russell also defended the watchdog’s policy of giving schools less than a day’s notice before inspections, saying parents often wanted schools to get no warning at all.
In the aftermath of her death there were passionate calls from heads across the country for a review of the way Ofsted operated.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK
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