Ruth Perry inquest will not examine whether state failed to protect her

Perry was in contact with the mental health crisis team five days after an Ofsted inspection, an inquest pre-hearing heard

Perry was in contact with the mental health crisis team five days after an Ofsted inspection, an inquest pre-hearing heard

27 Oct 2023, 17:36

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Experts have called for the HSE to conduct an immediate probe into work-related stress and mental health in the education sector

Headteacher Ruth Perry’s inquest will not examine whether the state failed to protect her prior to her tragic death.

Senior coroner Heidi Connor has decided not to hold an “enhanced” article 2 investigation – instead opting for one that will not apportion blame.

Despite this, she revealed this afternoon that the conduct of Ofsted inspectors during a two-day visit to Perry’s school, Caversham Primary in Berkshire, last November could be considered, depending on the evidence presented.

The headteacher’s family previously stated that 53-year-old took her own life in January before the publication of a report penned by the watchdog rating the school ‘inadequate’.

Ruth Perry contacted crisis team after inspection

Perry was seen by mental health professionals at Prospect Park Hospital Reading, before being in contact with the mental health crisis team five days after the inspection.

Speaking today at Berkshire Coroners’ Court, Connor told a pre-inquest review: “The conduct of the inspectors in terms of how it was conducted on November 15 and 16 are very much within [the] scope [of the inquest].”

Article 2 inquests are “enhanced” hearings “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.

Connor chose to go ahead with a Jamieson inquest instead. These proceedings will usually record a conclusion of suicide in cases where a person has taken their own life “as opposed to lack of care or neglect” contributing to the death, the CPS said.

Coroner ‘tried to steer away from Ofsted grading’

The coroner said she has “tried to steer away from matters of the grading” by Ofsted.

Remi Reichhold, representing Reading Borough Council and Caversham, noted that the school did not dispute what the inspectors “saw”. They have questioned the watchdog’s interpretation of the severity of the issues, though.

He added that staff at the primary say “some issues with safeguarding were minor…and the [Ofsted] rating was disproportionate”.  

Representing the watchdog, Bilal Rawat told the court that “what the inspectors had uncovered on day one had an effect” on her.

Ruth Perry inquest to last week

“The outcome of the report was that significant safeguarding concerns were identified,” he added. “What appears to be the case is an independent audit in December also uncovered issues.”

Caversham was upgraded to a rating of ‘good’ by Ofsted following a revisit in June. Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Walters, said at the time the new report proved “Ruth’s leadership was not inadequate” and that the primary “was never a failing school”.

The inquest is scheduled to begin on November 28 and run over six days. The Ofsted inspectors who conducted the visit last year will be called to give evidence on the opening day.

An upcoming parliamentary education committee inquiry into the impact the watchdog has on school and staff will examine the inspection system more generally.

Samaritans are available 365 days a year. You can reach them on free call number 116 123, email them at jo@samaritans.org or visit www.samaritans.org to find your nearest branch.

Charity Education Support runs a confidential helpline for education staff and teachers – call 08000 562 561. 

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