Ruth Perry's family hits out at 'perverse, inhumane' Ofsted system as inquiry finds it 'likely contributed' to her death

7 December 2023, 16:14 | Updated: 7 December 2023, 16:25

The family of Ruth Perry said "urgent lessons" must be learned after a coroner concluded an Ofsted inspection contributed to her taking her own life.
The family of Ruth Perry said "urgent lessons" must be learned after a coroner concluded an Ofsted inspection contributed to her taking her own life. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

Ruth Perry's family has hit out at the "callous, perverse and inhumane" Ofsted inspection system after an inquiry found it "likely contributed" to her death.

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Coroners ruled that an Ofsted inspection "likely contributed" to the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Perry took her own life in January after her school was downgraded to the lowest ranking over safeguarding concerns.

The inspection of her school, Caversham Primary School, lacked "fairness, respect and sensitivity" and was occasionally "rude and intimidating", senior coroner Heidi Connor said.

The primary school, based in Reading, was downgraded from "outstanding" to "inadequate" after Ofsted raised safeguarding concerns following a visit in November last year.

Read More: School run by Ruth Perry - who took own life - upgraded to 'good'

Read More: Ofsted to keep 'one-word assessments' despite backlash following death of headteacher Ruth Perry

It is now considered to be "good" following a re-grade.

Speaking after the coroner's conclusion, Mrs Perry's sister, Julia Walters, said the inquest had shown the "brutal inhumanity" of Ofsted inspections.

"Today, the coroner's conclusions validate what our family has known for a long time - that Ruth took her own life as the direct result of the process, outcome and consequences of an Ofsted inspection of the school she led and loved, Caversham Primary School," she said.

"The inquest into Ruth's death has shown the brutal inhumanity of the system of Ofsted inspections. Ofsted likes to judge people with single-word labels. We could judge the current Ofsted system with our own labels: callous, perverse and inhumane.

"Ruth's death, and this inquest, have laid bare the imbalance of power that exists in our education system."

Ofsted inspection ‘likely contributed’ to Ruth Perry’s death, coroner concludes

Mrs Perry's death led to a debate about how schools across the country should be judged by Ofsted.

Ms Connor took into account the inspection's conduct, the use of a one-word system by Ofsted, the confidentiality of Ofsted's report and the length of time between the inspection and their final grading.

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".

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.

Ms Perry's death led to a debate about schools across the country should be judged by Ofsted.
Ms Perry's death led to a debate about schools across the country should be judged by Ofsted. Picture: Alamy

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".

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".

Those feeling distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK

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