Family of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry crowdfunds ahead of inquest after legal aid denied

Ruth Perry. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The family of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry have surpassed their crowdfunding target to pay for legal advice and representation at the inquest into her death, after announcing their application for legal aid was rejected.

Ms Perry took her own life in January after an Ofsted report which downgraded Caversham Primary School from its highest rating, outstanding, to its lowest, inadequate, over safeguarding concerns.

Ruth Perry's death 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.

  • Speaking to ITV Meridian in July, Ruth Perry's sister Julia Waters said she would keep fighting for change.

Her sister, Professor Julia Waters, set up a GoFundMe page to raise £50,000 ahead of the inquest into Ms Perry’s death, which will begin on Tuesday (28 November) at Berkshire Coroner’s Court.

By Sunday (26 November) the appeal had reached £52,898.

On the page it was announced that the family’s application for legal aid was rejected "just days" before the start of the inquest, while other parties – Ofsted, Reading Borough Council and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Trust – will "de facto" have their legal costs "paid from the public purse" as public bodies.

"We believe this legal and financial inequity to be unjust," the page’s description said.

People attend a vigil for Ruth Perry outside the offices of Ofsted in Victoria, central London. Credit: PA

"The family hopes that the inquest will reveal the truth about the circumstances leading to Ruth’s death and the opportunities that were missed to prevent it.

"They hope that lessons can be learnt to prevent future such deaths from occurring.

"Please donate to our crowdfunder if you feel the lack of legal aid for Ruth Perry’s family is unjust and inequitable, and if you wish to support their campaign for meaningful change in Ruth’s name."

It was also made clear that any money raised beyond the target would be donated to the charity Inquest, which supports people bereaved by state-related deaths.

Prof 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 (2022).

At a pre-inquest review in July, Ofsted denied that the manner in which a school inspection was carried out contributed to Ms Perry’s death.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman said: "We know this will be an incredibly difficult time for the family and friends of Ruth Perry and our thoughts remain with them.

"Legal aid representation is not necessary in the vast majority of inquests but we have made changes to ensure there is more support for those who have lost loved ones."

Last week, an inquiry into the education inspectorate for England said Ofsted is in need of major reform and is seen as "not fit for purpose".

The Beyond Ofsted inquiry called for "transformational change" and said it found Ofsted as "having a detrimental impact on schools which some perceive as toxic".

An Ofsted spokesperson said they want "inspections to be a constructive experience for school staff".

"Children only get one chance at education, and inspection helps make sure that education standards are high for all children. The current inspection system was developed after extensive consultation with the education sector and parents.

"After every inspection we ask schools whether they believe the inspection will help them improve. Nine out of 10 say it will.

"Our inspectors are all former or current school leaders and well understand the nature and pressures of the work.

"Ofsted has a crucial role in providing a regular, independent evaluation of every school, providing reassurance to parents that pupils are receiving the high quality education they deserve and are being kept safe."