Suffolk school leaders to start Ofsted visits with minute's silence after death of head Ruth Perry

Ruth Perry, of Caversham Primary School.
Credit: Caversham Primary School.
Ruth Perry died in January after a bad Ofsted review. Credit: Caversham Primary School

School leaders have written to Ofsted demanding the suspension of inspections after the death of a headteacher - and say they will begin any visits from assessors with a minute's silence.

The Primary Headteachers' Association in Suffolk said its members would also wear black armbands in memory of Ruth Perry, the headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading.

She took her own life in January after being told the school was being downgraded from Outstanding to Inadequate.

The organisation has sent a letter to the school review body outlining its intentions.

Ms Perry's sister Julia Waters, said the head teacher had experienced the "worst day of her life" when inspectors reviewed the school on 15 and 16 November last year.

She said 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.

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

The letter sent by Suffolk Headteachers

In their letter, the primary headteachers in Suffolk said: "While dealing with a myriad of pressures from all sides, we write to you asking for an urgent case review, a suspension of inspections and a pledge that work will begin immediately on reform."

They also set out plans to mark Ms Perry's memory should Ofsted inspectors visit any of their schools, including:

  • Displaying a photograph of Ruth Perry at inspections;

  • Starting inspections with a minute's silence;

  • Wearing black armbands during inspections.

Rebecca Leek, executive director of the Suffolk Primary Headteachers' Association, wrote on behalf of her members: "Are you a force for good or a coercive and dangerous force, a Damoclean sword hanging over dedicated professionals for months and years on end?"

They also suggested that Ofsted should stop one-word judgements, consider agreeing timetables for inspections with each school and conduct a complete overhaul of how education is judged - calling the current model "faulty" and "ill-fitting."

Geoff Barton, a former Suffolk headteacher and the general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Many school and college leaders and their staff find inspections and Ofsted judgments very traumatic, and this is often damaging to their wellbeing.

“This case has brought matters to a head and something has to change. We will be discussing this with Ofsted as a matter of urgency.”

After Ms Perry’s death, 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 Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.”

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