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‘Direct link’ between Ofsted inspection and Ruth Perry’s death, inquest hears

Ruth Perry’s family say she took her own life after a report downgraded Caversham Primary School (Andrew Matthews/PA)
Ruth Perry’s family say she took her own life after a report downgraded Caversham Primary School (Andrew Matthews/PA)

There was a “direct link” between Ofsted’s inspection of Caversham Primary School and headteacher Ruth Perry’s death, staff at the school have told an inquest.

Ms Perry’s family say she took her own life after a report from the watchdog downgraded the school in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

Her sister, Professor Julia 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.

Clare Jones-King and Joanne Grover, acting co-headteachers at Caversham, gave evidence to the inquest at Berkshire Coroner’s Office in Reading on Thursday.

Both Ms Jones-King and Ms Grover were present in the school during the inspection, the inquest heard.

Senior coroner Heidi Connor asked them if they believed that there was a “direct link” between the Ofsted inspection and Ms Perry’s mental health “deterioration” and “death”.

Both teachers answered: “Yes.”

Ms Jones-King told the inquiry they were “very concerned” about Ms Perry during the inspection, but were worried that any actions they took may impact the headteacher’s welfare, as well as the outcome of the inspection.

Ms Grover said there was a “power imbalance” during inspections.

“The only thing that I would like to say is that it is very difficult in the position of a school leader to challenge, stop, ask, when we are in the middle of an Ofsted inspection,” she said.

“There is a power imbalance.”

Ofsted protest
People attend a vigil for Ruth Perry outside the offices of Ofsted in central London (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Previously, the inquest heard evidence from lead Ofsted inspector Alan Derry, who said it was possible to pause Ofsted inspections, although he admitted that he had never done so.

Ms Jones-King said she was unaware that this was possible.

“I learned that you could pause an inspection in this room earlier this week,” she said.

“It was not something I was aware of.”

Ms Jones-King also described a meeting she attended between Ms Perry and Mr Derry on the first day of the inspection.

She said that she was interrupted while speaking by Mr Derry during the meeting.

“At one point there was a hand lifted up to stop me speaking,” she said.

She described the meeting as “unpleasant”, referring to Mr Derry’s “hand gestures” and “tone of voice”.