During an inquest into the death of headteacher Ruth Perry, Ofsted inspectors claimed that it was “normal” for a headteacher to cry during an inspection. The inquest is examining the circumstances surrounding Perry’s suicide in January, which followed the downgrading of Caversham Primary School in Reading from “outstanding” to “inadequate” during an inspection in November of the previous year.
Two out of three inspectors who reviewed the school testified that it was not unusual for headteachers to cry during inspections. Perry had reportedly broken down in tears and appeared in “physical pain” upon learning of the downgrade.
The inquest heard that inspectors witnessed tears, embarrassment, and frustration during previous inspections, with one stating, “There are tears more times than there aren’t.” The family’s lawyer questioned whether the inspection team had considered slowing down the inspection due to Perry’s distress, but inspectors asserted that her reaction was within the range of what they expected in a challenging situation. Perry’s death sparked calls for reforms to Ofsted’s school ratings system.
The lead inspector, Alan Derry, denied leaving it to Perry to care for her own wellbeing and stated that he had a good understanding of mental health, having previously experienced suicidal thoughts himself. He insisted that the safeguarding concerns identified during the inspection needed to be immediately addressed. Caversham Primary School was graded as “good” in most areas but received an “inadequate” overall rating due to safeguarding issues, which would likely have led to the school becoming an academy.
The inquest is exploring whether it would have been sensible to pause the inspection to allow Perry to seek professional help for her distress.
Repurposed article originally published in the Independent