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Ruth Perry: Ofsted inspection 'likely contributed' to headteacher's death, coroner says

Ruth Perry took her own life (PA)
Ruth Perry took her own life (PA)

An Ofsted inspection "likely contributed" to the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, a senior coroner has told an inquest in Reading.

Ms Perry, 53, took her own life in January while waiting for the Ofsted report into her Caversham Primary School in Reading to be published.

Her family say she took her own life after a report from the watchdog downgraded the school from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

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

Her husband, Jonathan Perry, previously told the inquest his wife felt "completely devastated" in the weeks following the inspection, and that she worried about the impact of the school's downgrading on the local community.

Mr Perry told the inquest his wife felt the Ofsted inspector was a "bully" with an "agenda".

He said she was concerned failing on child safeguarding would be the end of her career.

Staff at the school had also said the headteacher was left tearful and incoherent after the inspection.

Ms Perry's GP, Tom Back, also said that he believed that there was a "link" between the inspection and the headteacher's mental health deterioration and death, adding it contributed "in a more than minimal way".

Concluding her inquest in Reading, senior coroner Heidi Connor said: "The evidence is clear in this respect, and I find that Ruth's mental health deterioration and death was likely contributed to by the Ofsted inspection."

Ms Connor said: "I find that parts of the Ofsted inspection were conducted in a way which lacked fairness, respect, and sensitivity."

She added a claim made by Ofsted during the inquest, that school inspections can be paused if the distress of a headteacher is a concern, was "a mythical creature".

Turning to Mrs Perry's family, the coroner said: "The composure and dignity you have displayed throughout is remarkable.

"She is your Ruth, not our Ruth."

An inspection report, published on Ofsted's website in March, found Ms Perry's school to be "good" in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be "inadequate".

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".