School watchdog launches independent inquiry over headteacher’s suicide

School watchdog launches independent inquiry over headteacher’s suicide

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GB News
Ray Addison

By Ray Addison

Published: 19/01/2024

- 00:01

School leaders are set to receive new guidelines

Ofsted is launching an independent inquiry into its response to the tragic death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Perry, 53, took her own life in January 2023 after the school watchdog downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.

Last month, senior coroner Heidi Connor concluded that a two-day inspection carried out in November 2022 “likely contributed” to her suicide.

She also warned there was a risk of further deaths “unless action is taken”.

Ruth Perry

Ofsted launches independent inquiry over headteacher Ruth Perry's suicide


Following that report, Ofsted’s new chief inspector Sir Martyn Oliver paused inspections in England to allow time for staff to undergo mental health awareness training.

They’re now set to resume on January 22 following discussions with headteacher unions and representatives.

Ofsted’s independent inquiry is part of a raft of changes announced today as part of its formal response to recommendations laid out in the Coroner’s Prevention of Future Deaths report.

The school watchdog says all inspectors have now been trained to recognise “signs of distress" and they've been ordered to act with “empathy and respect” during inspections.

\u200bPerry\u2019s sister, Professor Julia Waters, called the changes 'encouraging'

Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Waters, called the changes 'encouraging'


If headteachers have concerns, they’ll be able to raise them directly with Ofsted and a “well-being” group will be created to check up on school leaders and staff.

School leaders will have new guidelines on how to stop an Ofsted inspection if staff show signs of distress.

Additionally, Sir Martyn has announced plans to introduce a consultation exercise dubbed ‘The Big Listen’ to help improve trust.

As part of the scheme, parents and school leaders will be able to directly discuss Ofsted's changes to see if more can be done to improve standards.

\u200bRuth Perry tribute

Ruth Perry tribute


Describing himself as “shocked and saddened” by the death of Ruth Perry, Ofsted’s chief inspector said he accepted the Coroner’s findings and was “determined” to do everything in his power to prevent tragedies in the future.

He urged inspectors to be “sensitive” to pressures faced by school leaders and staff without shying away from difficult decisions.

Ofsted’s plans have been welcomed by Perry's family and union leaders, but they say more still needs to be done.

Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Waters, called the changes “encouraging”, but stressed that the culture of school inspections still needs a “radical overhaul”.

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said Ofsted’s actions “do not address all the problems with the inspection system”, but are “positive steps in the right direction”.

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