A HEADMISTRESS took her own life after hearing Ofsted was downgrading her primary school to “inadequate,” her family have said.
Ruth Perry, 53, had been the head at Caversham Primary School in Reading since 2010 but killed herself on January 8 this year.
Headmistress Ruth Perry took her own life on January 8 while waiting on an Ofsted inspection into her school[/caption]
Ruth’s sister, Julia, pictured, said the headteacher was left a ‘shadow of her former self’ by the Ofsted inspection[/caption]
Her family say Ruth was left a “shadow of her former self” as a result of the inspection by the school’s watchdog, and she had called it the “worst day of my life”.
Inspectors had decided to downgrade the school after the first day of a two-day inspection, it is claimed.
It is also claimed it made unfounded claims about the sexualisation of pupils at the school.
Ruth killed herself just two months before the report was released, which started an outpouring of grief from friends, family, colleagues and the school’s community.
Her sister Julia said the inspection, which was carried out on November 15 and 16 last year, had devastated Ruth who told her the experience was “dreadful” and it had been “the worst day of my life”.
Taking about that day, Julia told BBC South: “I said ‘It can’t be that bad’ and she said ‘yes it is, it’s about as bad as it can be’.
According to Julia, Ruth had claimed the Ofsted inspectors had told staff and leadership at the primary they had seen a boy doing “flossing,” a dance move popular on the video game Fortnite and this had been seen as evidence of the sexualisation of children at the school.
It is also alleged inspectors had told staff they had seen child-on-child abuse, and incident Ruth had said was just a playground scuffle.
The inspection had been the school’s first in 13 years, after rules exempting Outstanding schools from being looked at in-depth were dropped.
Published this week, the report graded the school as Good in every category other than leadership and management, where it was said to be Inadequate.
It criticised the school for poor record keeping, with gaps in employment checks possibly putting pupils at risk.
This rating dropped the entire school into the lowest category possible – Inadequate.
Inspectors noted that “most pupils behave sensibly and rise to the staff’s high expectations”, adding: “Pupils know who to turn to if they have a worry or a problem, feeling confident that they will get the help they need.
“Relationships between staff and pupils are warm and supportive. Incidents of bullying are rare.”
However, they added: “Leaders do not have the required knowledge to keep pupils safe from harm. They have not taken prompt and proper actions when pupils are at risk.
“They have not ensured that safeguarding is effective throughout the school.”
The report goes on to say: “Governors have an ambitious vision for pupils and staff.
“However, they have not ensured that they fulfil their statutory safeguarding responsibilities. Until the inspection, they were unaware of significant weaknesses in the school’s arrangements to keep pupils safe.”
It also said the school did not have “robust processes” to counteract persistent absenteeism from some pupils and that leaders had a “weak understanding of safeguarding requirements and procedures”.
Julia claimed there was a sense of “complete injustice” about the process behind the inspection and the report.
She said: “All during that process, every time I spoke to her she would talk about the countdown.
“I remember clearly one day her saying ‘52 days and counting’.
“Everyday, she had this weight on her shoulders hanging over her and she wasn’t officially allowed to talk to her family.
“I remember the very first time I saw her rather than just speaking on the phone a couple of days after the end of the Ofsted inspection, she was an absolute shadow of her former self.
“This one-word judgement is just destroying 32 years of her vocation, education was her vocation. 32 years summed up in one word, Inadequate. It just preyed on her mind until she couldn’t take it anymore.
“She was a huge loss, she was my little sister and she was only 53, she had so much more still to give, so much more that she could do.”
Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East, which covers the area where the school is located, said: “I’ve had a meeting with the school’s minister and I’ve also raised this with the regional director of Ofsted.
CONCERNS ABOUT INSPECTION
“I think it’s fair to say that there are local concerns about the way that the inspection was carried out.
“Also about the way that the Ofsted framework and other regulations affecting Ofsted effectively work, and the wider pressure on headteachers.”
Ofsted said in a statement: “We were deeply saddened by Ruth Perry’s tragic death.
“Our thoughts remain with Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.”
Ruth had been a pupil at school and returned to it in 2006 as the deputy head and was promoted to its principal in 2010.
Following her death, her family said in a statement: “We are left devastated by the sudden loss of a lovely mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, sister-in-law and friend.
“She leaves a huge, aching gap in all our lives and, we know, in the lives of so many others who were lucky enough to know her.
“We are grateful to all our friends for their thoughts and support now and in the difficult years ahead.
“Ruth will be remembered as the kind, funny, confident, vivacious, caring person she was and for all that she achieved in life.
“We also ask those who did not know Ruth please to respect our privacy, as we come to terms with our unfathomable grief, and to consider carefully how their words and actions might impact on others.
“As the many tributes to her from the broader school and Caversham community attest, Ruth cared deeply not just about academic results, but also about the general well-being and happiness of the pupils and staff whom she taught and led.
“Caversham Primary was a very happy school under Ruth’s leadership and, despite the many challenges that always go with the role of Head, she was happy there too.
“Ruth was a dedicated headteacher and an excellent teacher.
“She loved the pupils and the staff of Caversham Primary School and was very proud to have been its headteacher for 12 years and previously deputy headteacher for four years.
“Ruth was a force for good in her life, and we want her to be a force for positive change after her death too.
“We would urge anyone who has been affected by her death to talk about their feelings and know that help is available. Local and national helplines, advice and support can be found on the Reading Family Information Service website.”
If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this article, please call the Samaritans for free on 116123.