Sister of headteacher Ruth Perry will 'never give up' fighting for change at Ofsted

  • Ruth Perry's sister Julia Waters says she will keep fighting for change


The sister of headteacher Ruth Perry, who took her own life after her school was downgraded by Ofsted, says she will never give up fighting to make sure other families don't go through what they have.

Julia Waters said: "Ruth wasn't the first headteacher to take her own life because of an Ofsted inspection, but she must be the last."

Caversham Primary School in Reading, where the 53-year-old worked, was waiting for a report to be published downgrading it from Outstanding to Inadequate when she died.

Ruth Perry's death in January prompted a national debate about the fairness of Ofsted inspections and a call from her family for reform.

They believe the stress of waiting for the report led her to take her own life.

Ruth Perry took her own life in January. Credit: PA

Julia said: "Ofsted and the Department for Education's refusal to countenance that they might have played any part in all of those deaths is just insulting. It's deeply hurtful and it's irresponsible.

"They have a duty of care. They must have a duty of care to those people who give their time, the commitment, their love, their care to looking after the nation's children.

"You can't do that if you yourself are terrorised, traumatised, worn down.

"And to deny that Ofsted inspections have anything to do with what is, frankly, a mental health crisis in the teaching profession, the recruitment problems that everybody acknowledges, it's irresponsible, it's inhumane, it's insensitive and deeply hurtful."

The Chief Inspector at Ofsted, Amanda Spielman stands by the inspection at Caversham Primary. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire/PA Images

The regulator's Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman has said she stands by the inspection at Caversham Primary and has resisted calls to pause inspections.

In a statement, Ofsted said: "Our inspectors are all former or current school leaders themselves, so they understand how it feels to be inspected.

"We inspect first and foremost in the interests of children, but we aim for all our inspections to be carried out professionally and sensitively, with careful regard to their impact on school staff."

The Education Secretary Gillian Keegan says she fully supports one word assessments.

Julia will meet with the Education Secretary Gillian Keegan on Tuesday 23 May, to urge her to change her mind.

Julia will meet with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan on Tuesday. Credit: PA

Julia said: "Well I have asked already for a meeting that isn't just warm words and condolences. I don't need any more of those. They're meaningless. Unless there's actions to accompany it.

"I know up to now Ofsted and the Department for Education have refused to pause inspections. I'm still asking them to do that.

"They've missed the optimal moment where they could and should have done that. But still, I want them to stop, to reflect, to think about what has gone wrong, not just with the inspection at Caversham Primary, but generally what is wrong with the system?

"Why do 90% of teachers not have confidence in Ofsted? What I want to get from it is a commitment to review Ofsted practices, its system, its culture, an independent and a thorough review and not to wait to kick this can further and further down the line until the new Chief Inspector is appointed.

"This has happened on the watch of the current Department for Education, of a current Chief Inspector, it's up to them to ask themselves and their system some serious questions to come up with some positive answers in collaboration with the teaching profession."

Two academics have called for investigations into every work-related suicide following Ruth's death.

Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and University of Leeds professor Sarah Waters made the call to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in the British Medical Journal.

53-year-old Ruth Perry was headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading. Credit: Caversham Primary School

On Saturday, more than 400 people gathered for a private memorial service for Ruth where she was described by her sister as a 'gifted' and 'dedicated' head teacher.

Family and friends were joined by Ruth's former colleagues and pupils as well as her local MP.

Julia said: "I work in higher education. I know about education. I'm not a teacher, but I can just see that there's something profoundly wrong here.

"I would like to be able to step back and go back to my life and my job. But until there is meaningful change, until I am assured that what happened to Ruth can't happen to anybody else, what we've gone through, the pain we've gone through as a family will not be experienced by other families for the same reason, until that happens. No, I'm not giving up."