Headteacher found hanged was worrying about Ofsted rating, inquest hears
Richard Garner has been Education Editor of The Independent for 12 years and writing about the subject for 34 years. Before becoming a journalist, he worked as a disc jockey in London pubs and clubs and for a hospital radio station. His main hobbies are cricket (watching these days) and theatre. On his days off, he is most likelt to be found at Lord’s or the King’s Head Theatre Club.
Monday 29 April 2013
A headteacher found hanged at her primary school had been worrying her school would lose its “outstanding” rating in its next report by education standards watchdog Ofsted, an inquest heard.
Helen Marr, aged 43, was found dead at Sytchampton Endowed First School for four to nine-year-olds in Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, last November.
Dr Stephanie Gait, who chaired the school’s governing body, told the inquest: “She was very concerned that - if an Ofsted inspection was imminent - the school would lose its ‘outstanding’ rating.
“That had been mentioned in at least one governor’s meeting and we all said we understood that would be the case but not through any fault of her.”
The inquest heard local authority officials had carried out their own assessment of the school and said it was unlikely to maintain its top ranking. Mrs Mann had been head of the school for just six months when she died following a five term period when it had been without a permanent headteacher.
The inquest also heard Mrs Mann, a married mother with two children, was worried about having to make a part-time teacher, Angela Mercer, redundant, ”There was an employment issue which was not of her making,” said Dr Gait. “There was a hearing that Helen was at and I know she found that very difficult. ... I was told by the governors that were there that she was visibly distressed following that meeting.”
On the day she was found hanged in the school - a training day when there were no pupils around, she had just returned from a month’s sick leave following collapsing at a meeting.
Dr Gait said that - following the summer holidays - Mrs Mann appeared “weighed down by what she wanted to achieve” and had noticeably lost weight.
“I was concerned ... she was not the bright-eyed bushy-tailed young woman who had joined us and was being weighed down by what she saw as problems,” she added.
Jacqueline Stanley, a teaching assistant at the school, said Mrs Mann had looked ”dreadful” when she had come into the school during her sick leave but added that - as a head - she had been “very hands on, very interactive”. “She was lovely with the children,” she said.
The inquest, which is expected to last four days, was adjourned until tomorrow.
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