During a discussion with an NHS clinician a few weeks prior to her death, Ruth Perry expressed her surprise at the fact that more headteachers do not commit suicide as a result of Ofsted inspections, according to testimony presented at her inquest.
Perry expressed her strong disapproval of the system, stating that it was extremely cruel and unjust for one person to be subjected to such treatment. She was surprised that there weren’t more individuals experiencing severe emotional distress, especially after Ofsted’s evaluation of her school.
She stated: “There is a need for change in Ofsted.”
At the inquest held at Reading coroner’s court, testimony was given by Perry’s general practitioner and other healthcare professionals who were consulted as her mental health declined after Ofsted’s evaluation of Caversham primary school in Reading, where Perry served as head teacher.
The school’s rating was lowered from “outstanding” to “inadequate” by Ofsted due to concerns about safeguarding procedures. Perry’s family claimed that she ended her own life because of this.
Daniel Buckley, a mental health practitioner with a senior position at Prospect Park psychiatric hospital in Reading, along with Dr Thomas Back, the GP for Perry, informed Heidi Connor, Berkshire’s senior coroner, that the Ofsted evaluation had a part in her passing.
Buckley stated that Perry informed him that the confidentiality regulations of Ofsted prevented her from divulging the inspection outcome, which was one of her primary worries.
According to Ofsted regulations, school administrators are informed of the inspection outcome and provided with preliminary versions of the report, but are not allowed to disclose or debate the report or evaluation openly. The inspection occurred in mid-November, but the findings were not released until her passing in early January.
During the inquest, Dr. Back stated that Perry had not shown any signs of mental health issues in the past 30 years. However, he had met with her multiple times after she was diagnosed with an “acute stress reaction” following the inspection.
According to Dr. Back, Perry’s condition had deteriorated by the end of the year, but she was determined to return to work after Christmas. Perry was disappointed that she couldn’t make progress without the publication of the Ofsted judgment.
The coroner inquired if the postponement of the release was connected to her passing. Dr Back responded, “I believe so, as it prevented her from finding relief from her fears and the impact the disclosure of inspection details would have on her.”
Jonathan Perry, husband of Ruth Perry, made a statement documenting her mental decline during the period when she was awaiting the release of the Ofsted report.
Jonathan Perry shared that his spouse was extremely afraid of losing her job, as she was aware that an unsatisfactory decision could potentially ruin her career as a headteacher. She constantly expressed her fear of disappointing everyone, including her colleagues, students, parents, and loved ones.
Jonathan Perry expressed concern that her children could also experience bullying, and that the value of Caversham homes might decrease due to the school losing its exceptional rating, potentially causing tension with other members of the community.
Ruth Perry experienced negative feelings after the inspection and went to Prospect Park hospital for assistance. However, she did not feel comfortable trusting the staff to keep the Ofsted result private.
“After returning from the hospital, Ruth searched online for guidance on how headteachers handle an inadequate Ofsted judgment. She was hoping to find helpful tips and recommendations, but instead came across alarming news of multiple suicides,” according to Jonathan Perry.
Perry struggled with giving tours to potential parents of the school, finding it to be an overwhelming task. According to Jonathan Perry, she had to showcase what parents believed to be a top-notch school that was highly sought after, while knowing that it was deemed inadequate by Ofsted.
Brian Grady, the educational leader for Reading borough council, stated that he thought about disputing the results from Ofsted. However, during the investigation, he admitted that he believed there was a low possibility of succeeding. Grady further explained, “I was unable to challenge the regulations because Ofsted is responsible for creating them.”
The investigation will resume on Monday, with the coroner’s findings anticipated to be released on Thursday.
During a conference in Bournemouth, Amanda Spielman, the departing chief inspector of Ofsted, was approached by a participant who claimed she did not fully comprehend the effects of her inspections on local authorities and schools, as they were hesitant to voice their concerns to her.
Spielman responded by acknowledging that Ofsted is aware of the potential for anxiety to arise, but maintained that their inspections are intended to be positive, impartial, and conducted with professionalism.
In the United Kingdom and Ireland, individuals can reach out to Samaritans for free by calling 116 123 or emailing [email protected] or [email protected]. In the United States, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be contacted by calling or texting 988, chatting on 988lifeline.org, or texting HOME to 741741 to speak with a crisis counselor. In Australia, the crisis support service Lifeline can be reached at 13 11 14. For other international helplines, please visit befrienders.org.