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Headteacher who took own life after critical Ofsted report 'was tearful and could not speak' during inspection
28 November 2023, 17:37
A headteacher who took her own life after a damning Ofsted report was tearful and said "it's not looking good" during the school's inspection, an inquest has heard.
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Ruth Perry was said to have been devastated when the education inspector downgraded Caversham Primary School from outstanding to inadequate.
The school in Reading was judged to be "good" in each category Ofsted inspects except for leadership and management, which was branded "inadequate".
School leaders did not have the knowledge needed to keep pupils "safe from harm" and did not take prompt actions to ensure "effective" safeguarding, Ofsted found.
Her death led to questions about how watchdog conducts its inspections and evaluates schools, when it often uses blunt ratings.
An inquest into her death, held at Berkshire Coroner's Office in Reading, heard she came across as "professional" when Ofsted inspector Alan Derry called her before the inspection in November last year.
But when he arrived the next morning she seemed less confident and during a meeting about safeguarding she repeatedly said "it's not looking good, is it?"
Derry told the inquest she was "tearful" and she clutched a tissue in her hand. The meeting was paused and ended after he asked if she wanted to speak to someone.
Nicola Leroy, a member of staff at the school, said Perry was "unable to speak coherently" afterwards.
"She said she needed to leave the school right now," Leroy said in evidence, adding: "We had never seen Ruth in this way before."
Perry met with Derry later to discuss pupils' behaviour. Another staff member, Clare Jones-King, described it as "unpleasant" and Derry as "mocking and unpleasant", according to senior coroner Heidi Connor.
Derry said he was "very disappointed" to have been described as that.
After more meetings, the inspection ended with a feedback meeting in which Perry appeared to be in "physical pain", according to Derry, and "very upset".
"She was very, very tearful. She looked like she was in pain," he said.
"At that point she was saying things like she could not show her face again."
Asked if he had changed his approach to inspections since, Derry said the tragedy had "changed me".
"It would make sense to think that the way that I have conducted inspections has changed as a result," he admitted.
The school, in Reading, Berkshire, was reinspected on June 21 and 22 and a fresh report, which does not mention Perry, rates it good in all categories.
Her sister, Professor Julia Waters, said the upgraded rating was a testament to the work of Perry and the staff she led since the initial inspection in November last year.