Ofsted inspection 'likely contributed' to death of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry, coroner finds

Ruth Perry Credit: Family handout

An Ofsted inspection “likely contributed” to the death of Reading headteacher Ruth Perry, senior coroner Heidi Connor has told an inquest in Reading.Mrs Perry took her own life after a report from the watchdog downgraded her Caversham Primary School from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.Staff at the school said the headteacher was left tearful and incoherent after the inspection 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.

Mrs Perry’s GP, Tom Back, also said he believed 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”.

School staff said Ruth Perry was left tearful and incoherent after the Ofsted inspection on November 15 and 16 last year. Credit: Family handout

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.”

The inquiry heard Ofsted’s Alan Derry, who led the inspection at the school, said Mrs Perry was “tearful” and kept saying “it’s not looking good is it?”.

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.

Ruth Perry was the headteacher at Caversham Primary School Credit: ITV News Meridian

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”.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said: “My heart goes out to Ruth’s family, friends and the school community. Her death was a tragedy that not only shocked the local community but also the wider sector and beyond.

“It is clear from the coroner’s findings that lessons need to be learned. We have worked closely with Ruth’s family as well as with Ofsted to introduce key reforms and further support for our school leaders.

"I am extremely grateful to Ruth’s sister, Julia, and her friends for working so closely with us to introduce these changes.

“Ofsted is fundamental to making sure children are safe and receive the education they deserve.

"Together we will look closely at the coroner’s recommendations to consider further changes to make sure we have an inspection system that supports schools and teachers, and ultimately secure Ruth’s legacy.”