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Ofsted report findings revealed after family blame inspection for headteacher’s death

Ruth Perry became a ‘shadow of herself’ as she awaited the publication of the report, her grieving sister said

Thomas Kingsley
Friday 17 March 2023 14:21 GMT
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Headteacher’s family say she took her own life while waiting for damning Ofsted report

School inspectors Ofsted have come under scrutiny after a grieving family said a headteacher took her own life while awaiting a critical report.

Ruth Perry had experienced the “worst day of her life” when inspectors visited Caversham Primary School in Reading last November, her sister said.

Julia Waters said in the weeks that followed the visit, her sibling was a ‘shadow of her former self’ after being told the school was being downgraded from ‘outstanding ‘to ‘inadequate’. The 53 year-old died in January after dedicating 32 years of her life to teaching.

Ruth Perry took how own life two months before report was released (Brighter Futures for Children)

Following inspections, Ofsted awards four grades in a number of categories, with ‘outstanding’ being the best, followed by ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ and finally ‘inadequate’.

In the Caversham report, which had not been published at the time of Ms Perry’s death, the watchdog gave the school its lowest rating overall.

However, four out of five categories were given a ‘good’ grade including ‘quality of education’, ‘behaviour and attitudes’, ‘personal development’ and ‘early years provision’.

Only ‘leadership and management’ received an inadequate grade. The report explained that the last inspection at the school was 13 years ago due to rules exempting outstanding schools from being looked at in-depth, which are now scrapped.

The report describes Caversham as “welcoming and vibrant”, praising pupil behaviour in lessons as “exemplary” and adding that children were “well prepared for their next stage of education”.

“Pupils enjoy coming to this welcoming and vibrant school,” it states. “They respect and celebrate differences between themselves and others. Pupils can discuss what a healthy and unhealthy relationship looks like and how to be a good friend. They know how to stay safe, including online.

“Pupils’ behaviour in lessons is exemplary. They love to learn and they relish the challenges that teachers provide.”

Ms Perry’s sister Julia said the headteacher became a ‘shadow of herself’ (Screengrab )

However, concerns are repeatedly raised in the report about safeguarding arrangements for children, which were deemed “not effective”.

Ofsted said its said Caversham school leaders had a “weak understanding of safeguarding requirements and procedures”, and that there was not “appropriate supervision during breaktimes”, which meant pupils were “potentially at risk of harm”.

“Some staff have not had the necessary training to be able to record concerns accurately using the school’s online system,” the report states. “However, staff know how to identify concerns about pupils and to report these to the appropriate leader. The pastoral support provided for pupils is a strength and they appreciate this level of care.

“Leaders do not have the required knowledge to keep pupils safe from harm. They have not taken prompt and proper actions when pupils are at risk. They have not ensured that safeguarding is effective throughout the school.”

BBC South reported that in feedback to the senior leadership team, inspectors had allegedly said a boy doing a dance move akin to flossing was evidence of the ‘sexualisation of children’ at the school.

But such specific claims are not included in the Ofsted report and the inspectorate declined to comment further when approached by the Independent.

Labour MP for Reading East, Matt Rodda, has met with the school’s minister following the headteacher’s death and raised concerns with Ofsted’s regional director.

“I think it’s fair to say that there are local concerns about the way that the inspection was carried out,” Mr Rodda said.

“Also about the way that the Ofsted framework and other regulations affecting Ofsted effectively work, and the wider pressure on headteachers.”

Matthew Purves, Ofsted regional director for the south east, said: “We were deeply saddened by Ruth Perry’s tragic death.

“Our thoughts remain with Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.”

If you are experiencing feelings of distress and isolation, or are struggling to cope, The Samaritans offers support; you can speak to someone for free over the phone, in confidence, on 116 123 (UK and ROI), email jo@samaritans.org, or visit the Samaritans website to find details of your nearest branch.

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