Headteacher who took her own life contacted mental health crisis team after Ofsted downgraded school

Ruth Perry died on 8 January after Caversham Primary School in Reading was downgraded to inadequate by Ofsted

Amy-Clare Martin
Crime Correspondent
Friday 27 October 2023 21:39 BST

A headteacher who took her own life after her school was rated as inadequate by Ofsted was in contact with a mental health crisis team following the inspection, an inquest heard.

Ruth Perry, 53, died on 8 January after Caversham Primary School in Reading was downgraded from its highest rating — outstanding — to its lowest — inadequate — over safeguarding concerns.

Her 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. Her death sparked a wave concern over Ofsted’s one-word rating system, with teachers calling for reform to the school’s inspector.

On Friday senior coroner for Berkshire Heidi Connor told a pre-inquest review hearing that the headteacher was in contact with a mental health crisis team just days after Ofsted downgraded her school.

Headteacher Ruth Perry took her own life earlier this year after an Ofsted report downgraded her school (Andrew Matthews/PA)

A member of staff from the crisis team and Ms Perry’s GP will both give evidence at the full inquest into her death later this year.

A lawyer for the school and the local authority, Reading Borough Council, also told the hearing that safeguarding issues identified at Caversham Primary were “minor” and did not justify an inadequate rating.

In discussions about the proposed scope of the inquest, Remi Reichhold said: “The school’s position is that it was wrong to give the rating that it did and it was disproportionate.”

However the coroner indicated that debates around Ofsted’s grading will not form part of her inquiry into the death of the headteacher.

She also ruled the inquest will not be an article 2 hearing at this stage, which can take place when government agencies “failed to protect the deceased against a human threat or other risk,” according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

However senior coroner Heidi Connor noted that the “door remains ajar” if interested parties, including Ms Perry’s family, want to make further submissions on this issue.

Ruth Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Waters

The three Oftsed inspectors who downgraded Caversham will be called to give evidence, along with Christopher Russell, Ofsted’s national director for education.

Bilal Rawat, representing Ofsted, questioned whether issues over the inspectors’ conduct, or if they “conducted themselves in a professional manner” would form part of the inquest.

The coroner said it could be considered, depending on the evidence presented at the inquest.

She said: “The conduct of the inspectors in terms of how it was conducted on November 15 and 16 are very much within scope [of the inquest].”

Other witnesses will include Caversham Primary’s two acting headteachers and the school’s business manager.

Ms Perry’s family are understood to be preparing pen portraits for the four-day hearing on 4 December.

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