Headteacher killed herself while waiting for negative Ofsted report, sister says

Ruth Perry, 53, who had been the headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, took her own life in January.

Ted Hennessey
Friday 17 March 2023 11:24 GMT
Headteacher’s family say she took her own life while waiting for damning Ofsted report

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A headteacher killed herself while waiting for an Ofsted report which gave her school the lowest possible rating, her family said.

Ruth Perry, 53, who was the headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, took her own life in January after being told the school was being downgraded from Outstanding to Inadequate.

Her sister, Julia Waters, said Ms Perry had experienced the “worst day of her life” after inspectors reviewed the school on November 15 and 16 last year.

She told BBC South that inspectors said a boy doing a flossing dance move, from the video game Fortnite, was evidence of the sexualisation of children at the school.

I think it's fair to say that there are local concerns about the way that the inspection was carried out

Matt Rodda, Labour MP

Ms Waters went on: “Ruth took her own life on January 8, all during that process every time I spoke to her, she would talk about the countdown.

“I remember her clearly one day saying ‘52 days and counting’, every day she had this weight on her shoulders hanging over her and she wasn’t officially allowed to talk to her family.

“I remember the very first day I saw her, rather than just speaking to her on the phone, a couple of days after the end of the Ofsted inspection, she came, she was an absolute shadow of her former self.”

She said the inspection destroyed 32 years of her vocation and “preyed on her mind until she couldn’t take it any more”.

The report, which was published this week, found the school to be Good in every category, apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be Inadequate, the lowest rating.

Inspectors said school leaders did not have the “required knowledge to keep pupils safe from harm”, did not take “prompt and proper actions” and had not ensured safeguarding was “effective”.

Caversham Primary School said in a letter in response to the report: “The school, led by Ruth, responded immediately after the inspection visit, to take action to resolve the issues raised.

“Following the heart-breaking loss of Ruth, we have continued her work to ensure that the school is an effective, safe and happy place for children to learn and achieve.”

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

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

Matt Rodda, a Labour MP for Reading East, said: “I’ve had a meeting with the schools minister and I’ve also raised this with the regional director of Ofsted.

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

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

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.

If you are based in the USA, and you or someone you know needs mental health assistance right now, call National Suicide Prevention Helpline on 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The helpline is a free, confidential crisis hotline that is available to everyone 24 hours a day, seven days a week. If you are in another country, you can go to www.befrienders.org to find a helpline near you.

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