March 5, 2024

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Ruth Perry: Headteacher refuses Ofsted inspectors entry after primary school leader ‘took her own life’

4 min read

A headteacher has said she will refuse Ofsted inspectors entry to her school following the death of fellow leader.

Ruth Perry, who was headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, killed herself in January while waiting for an Ofsted report which gave her school the lowest possible rating, her family say.

Unions representing school leaders and teachers have called on the watchdog to pause all inspections this week following the death of Ms Perry.

Ruth Perry is said to have taken her life in January, after worrying about the outcome of a school inspection

(Brighter Futures for Children)

On Monday the executive headteacher of the John Rankin Schools in nearby Newbury, Berkshire, Flora Cooper, said that she would be refusing entry during a planned Ofsted inspection on Tuesday.

The head posted her plan to Twitter and made a plea to her followers for support.

Ms Cooper tweeted: “I’ve just had the call. I’ve refused entry. Doing this for everyone for our school staff everywhere!”

She also posted: “Can I please get everyone here tomorrow? Would you show up? John Rankin School, Newbury. Who would support?”

But hours later, she urged people not to come to her school, insisting she must “protect our children, our staff and our community.”

“Please for the protection of our children and staff,” she pleaded.

It is understood that Ofsted is in contact with the school and is trying to resolve the situation.

It comes after Ms Perry’s sister Julia Julia Waters said her sibling had experienced the “worst day of her life” when inspectors reviewed her school in November.

She told BBC South that the inspection “destroyed” 32 years of dedication to education and “preyed on her mind until she couldn’t take it any more”.

The inspection report found the school to be good in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be inadequate.

Flora Cooper, executive headteacher of the John Rankin Schools, called on people to support her at the school on Tuesday morning

(Google Maps)

A petition calling for an inquiry into the inspection of Caversham Primary School has more than 39,000 signatures.

Three unions representing teachers and school leaders have urged Ofsted to pause inspections this week in light of the news about Ms Perry.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Ruth Perry’s death is an unspeakable tragedy and it is clear that school leaders across the nation have been deeply affected by the news.

“Having spoken with Ruth’s family, we know they are determined that something like this should never happen again. It is important that everyone listens to what they have to say.”

Ms Perry’s sister Julia Waters said the headteacher became a ‘shadow of herself’

(Screengrab )

He added: “Whilst it should never take a tragedy like this to prompt action, this has to be a watershed moment.

“The anger and hurt being expressed currently by school staff is palpable. It is essential that all policy makers, including Ofsted, listen and respond.

“Given the strength of feeling and the need for a period of calm reflection, Ofsted should pause inspections this week.”

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), said: “Given recent events and widespread concerns about leaders’ wellbeing, it’s the height of insensitivity for Ofsted to be going into schools or colleges this week.

“Ofsted should pause all its inspections and reflect upon the unmanageable and counter-productive stress they cause for school leaders, and the impact on leaders.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “We’ve seen that a headteacher has tweeted their intention to refuse entry to an Ofsted inspection team, and this shows very clearly the strength of feeling following the tragic death of Ms Perry.

“Many school and college leaders and their staff find inspections and Ofsted judgments very traumatic, and this is often damaging to their wellbeing.

“This case has brought matters to a head and something has to change. We will be discussing this with Ofsted as a matter of urgency.”

ASCL is also calling on the watchdog to pause inspections this week.

Mr Barton added: “Ofsted should undertake an immediate review of the impact of inspections on the wellbeing of school and college leaders and staff, and a pause in the inspection cycle would allow for a period in which this could happen.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “It is a legal requirement for schools and nurseries to be inspected by Ofsted and they have a legal duty to carry out those inspections.

“Inspections are hugely important as they hold schools to account for their educational standards and parents greatly rely on the ratings to give them confidence in choosing the right school for their child.

“We offer our deep condolences to the family and friends of Ruth Perry following her tragic death and are continuing to provide support to Caversham Primary School at this difficult time.”

After Ms Perry’s death, Matthew Purves, Ofsted’s regional director for the South East, said: “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.”

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