Ofsted

Ruth Perry: Reading council to survey heads’ wellbeing and challenge rogue Ofsted inspections

Actions follow coroner report into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, but sister says it shows council has ‘not been providing required support’

Actions follow coroner report into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, but sister says it shows council has ‘not been providing required support’

Ruth Perry

Reading Borough Council will survey its headteachers annually about their mental health and take responsibility for challenging rogue inspections following the death of Ruth Perry.

The council said “the loss of Ruth must lead to learning and positive changes” in its response to three key concerns raised in a coroner’s ‘prevention of future deaths’ report.

Coroner Heidi Connor last year ruled an Ofsted inspection contributed to the suicide of Perry, who was headteacher at Caversham primary in Reading.

As well as wider concerns over Ofsted and the government, she recommended the council have a “written policy or guidance” to back up its stated “intention to adopt a more robust and proactive approach to dealing with” the inspectorate.

Brighter Futures for Children (BFfC), the not-for-profit organisation which runs education in Reading, has now said it will adopt the policy.

This will include “taking on responsibility for raising challenges to future Ofsted inspections on behalf of local schools”.

Ruth Perry
Ruth Perry

It will be written into a revised ‘school effectiveness framework’, subject to approval by councillors.

At the inquest, Connor said it was “clear” Reading “felt that Ofsted’s decision was wrong and unfair” and “knew Ruth was not in a position to raise concerns herself”.

But “they did not make a single word of comment on the draft report, despite asking for the opportunity to do so”.

It will also commission an independent external learning review. Perry’s family will help finalise the terms of reference and it will conclude in April.

Ruth Perry’s sister Julia Waters said she hoped the review will be “rigorous and the resulting recommendations useful and far-reaching enough, to ensure a tragedy like Ruth’s cannot happen again”.

But she added: “We do not feel the council has yet put forward a convincing set of actions to address the coroner’s concerns”.

She added: “We are genuinely shocked to learn that the council is only now proposing to bring in many of the policies and actions that most people would expect from a responsible employer. It shows that the council has not been providing the kind of practical or psychological support that headteachers say they need.”

On its new survey, Reading said results will “inform updates” to its current support package offer.

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4 Comments

  1. We need to focus on the many accountability structures that operate within the DfE and ESFA.
    These in themselves are a source of great stress and distract from the core purpose of leading schools.
    We are currently recovering from the effects of a pandemic which has affected mental well being in children, attendance and a whole host of issues relating to inequity and health.
    Perhaps we should be working in multi dimensional teams to support all key stages of learning with children’s views at the forefront.
    How about the importance of play and socialisation, let’s start from the beginning, let children be children!

  2. Fiona Lyczynska

    There’s not much point surveying yearly because I suspect nobody including Ruth Perry could predict that their mental heath would be challenged before it was in fact challenged. You could ask, how would you feel if your whole life was falling apart? Mildly upset, moderately upset, severely distressed, worse than this.

  3. Victor Smith

    The system is now corrupt. Councils’ directors of education work with regional Ofsted directors to fail schools which dont follow the perceived local, best practices. Ofsted isnt impartial. Local link inspectors work closely with inspectors during inspections to attack out of favour HTs. It.s been going on for ages. Parents are listened to way too much. A few rotten eggs literally kills a school s chances of survival. The angry parents that count are the posher middle class ones whose children are poorly behaved, rude , bullies- just like their parents. A morally bankrupt system. Councils dont care. Never have.

  4. Sandy Cameron

    Anyone who has followed government education policy since 2010 knows that local authority influence and capacity has been deliberately weakened as a consequence of the rise of the academy project. Tories trumpeted that all schools could be freed from local authority control and then that all schools will become academies. Yet legislation requiring local authorities to hold core responsibilities is still in place, though with diminishing funding to fulfil them.

    The focus solely on what Ofsted is doing is shortsighted.