Ofsted

Coroner considering ‘enhanced’ inquest into Ruth Perry death

Decision due in August on whether to hold article 2 inquest - for cases where the state has 'failed to protect the deceased'

Decision due in August on whether to hold article 2 inquest - for cases where the state has 'failed to protect the deceased'

11 Jul 2023, 18:37

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An inquest into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry may involve a deeper dive into whether the state failed to protect her.

Coroner Heidi Connor said today she had not yet decided whether to hold an “enhanced” article 2 inquest, but that her investigation would not look at the “inner workings” of Ofsted nor whether inspectors reached the “right” conclusions.

Perry, the headteacher of Caversham Primary School in Berkshire, died in January. Her family said she took her own life before the publication of an inspection report rating the school ‘inadequate’.

Julia Waters
Julia Waters

Article 2 inquests are “enhanced inquests held in cases where the state or its agents have failed to protect the deceased against a threat or other risk”, according to the Crown Prosecution Service.

At a pre-inquest review hearing at Reading Coroner’s Court, Connor said she would make a decision on whether to hold such an inquest in August. However, she said all parties had agreed the case should be heard without a jury.

It follows reports on Friday that Caversham has been upgraded to ‘good’ by Ofsted following a revisit. Perry’s sister Julie Waters said the report proved “Ruth’s leadership was not inadequate and Caversham primary was never a failing school”.

Inner-workings of Ofsted not considered

Connor said today that the inquest will not examine the schools inspection system more generally, but noted the recent announcement of a Parliamentary education committee inquiry into the impact Ofsted has on schools and staff.

“I won’t be investigating the inner workings of Ofsted. That is a matter for the inquiry,” she told the court.

She will also “not be investigating whether the conclusions [Ofsted inspectors] reached were right”, nor whether Caversham’s rating was “appropriate”.

The inspection that resulted in the ‘inadequate’ rating took place on November 15 and 16 last year.

The court heard that on November 20, Perry attended Prospect Park Hospital in Reading and was seen by mental health professionals.

Family wants statement from hospital

James Rowbottom, the family’s counsel, said obtaining a statement from a practitioner who saw her that day was of “particular concern” because it evidenced her “state of mind” following the inspection.

He also told the court the family hopes the inquest will “play a role in preventing future mental health difficulties and potentially deaths” within the sector.

Bilal Rawat, representing Ofsted, said the watchdog’s position was that the inspection “revealed serious safeguarding concerns” that informed the outcome.

He said the inspectorate did not accept the conduct of inspectors had affected Perry, but rather “what was found” during their visit.

Other interested persons in the hearing are Caversham Primary School, Reading Borough Council, Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Perry’s GP.

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