Ruth Perry: Ofsted and DfE given 56 days to say what action they’ll take

A coroner has published a prevention of future deaths report following the headteacher's inquest

A coroner has published a prevention of future deaths report following the headteacher's inquest

19 Dec 2023, 15:42

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Ofsted and the DfE have until February 7 to respond to the coroner's report

Ofsted and the government have been given 56 days to set out what actions they will take in response to a prevention of future deaths report following the death of headteacher Ruth Perry.

Senior coroner Heidi Connor concluded earlier this month that Perry died in January by suicide, contributed-to by an Ofsted inspection.

During the hearing at Berkshire Coroners’ Court, she also set out her plans to issue a regulation 28 report, aimed at preventing future deaths.

Connor said she hoped the report, which was published today, would be used by the “parliamentary inquiry process to review how school inspection should work going forward”.

The recipients must respond by February 7 and include details of “action taken or proposed to be taken, setting out the timetable for action”, Connor said in the report.

Each body will have to explain their reasoning if no action is proposed off the back of seven key concerns in relation to Ofsted and the Department for Education and three in relation to Reading Borough Council.

“In my opinion there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken,” said Connor, adding that some of her concerns were “outside the gift of Ofsted”.

As heard in the inquest, Connor raised concerns that “transparency and ease of message to parents is not currently weighed against teacher welfare”.

She added that there was “almost complete absence of Ofsted training or published policy” in relation to headteacher distress during inspection, or pausing an inspection as a result.

Ofsted holds emergency training

Schools Week revealed last week that Ofsted’s emergency training for lead inspectors following the inquest’s conclusion took some steps to address the issues.

A full programme of training on managing stress during inspections is set to begin from next month.

The inquest report warned of an “absence of a clear path” to raise concerns during an inspection if they could not be raised with the lead inspector.

Connor also pointed out that while Keegan had previously announced the DfE was expanding wellbeing support to heads following Perry’s death, an Ofsted witness in the inquest was “not able to clarify what form this additional support has taken”.

Though Reading Borough Council said it would adopt a “much more robust and proactive approach” to Ofsted concerns, Connor said this was not in written policy or guidance.

This, she argued, “may go some way towards reassuring school leaders that their employer ‘has their back’ – both now and in future years”.

She also noted that it had carried out an internal review of the case, and was “concerned to know” if there was written policy or guidance about communicating mental health support options for headteachers.

At the end of the inquest, Keegan said Ofsted and the DfE would “look closely at the coroner’s recommendations to consider further changes to make sure we have an inspection system that supports schools and teachers, and ultimately secure Ruth’s legacy”.

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.

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

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