The disastrous Ofsted inspection of Cavendish Primary School had a direct link to the deteriorating mental health and suicide of headteacher Ruth Perry, the inquest into her death has been told.
Colleagues of the 53-year-old headteacher told Berkshire Coroner Heidi Connor that lead inspector Alan Derry had been ‘unpleasant’ and ‘unprofessional’ during a meeting about safeguarding at the school.
The Coroner asked senior school leader Jo Grover: ‘Do you see a direct link between the Ofsted inspection and Ruth’s deteriorating mental health and death?’
Ms Grover replied: ‘Yes, absolutely I do.’
The teacher told how there was an ‘imbalance’ of power between the Ofsted inspectors and staff in charge of running the primary which left Ms Perry in tears.
Ruth Perry, 53, was headteacher at Caversham Primary School in Reading, and took her own life before a negative Ofsted inspection on the school was published
The John Rankin School in Newbury, where headteacher Mrs Perry worked
Ms Grover said: ‘Ruth was physically upset and crying.
‘I was aware that there had been safeguarding incidents and I was expecting a level of challenge around that.
‘But it was not a professional conversation.
‘The manner at one point in this meeting was unpleasant.
‘There were hand gestures and tone of voice. I was interrupted.
‘I was not able to complete my sentences.
‘At one point there was a hand lifted up to stop me speaking and a snigger.
‘[Lead inspector] Mr Derry very loudly said: “I beg to differ.”‘
Ms Grover told the court that all of senior staff at the school felt ‘under extreme pressure’ during the two-day inspection.
Teachers, friends and supporters of Mrs Perry gather outside the inquest centre in Reading
She said: ‘We all felt under extreme pressure.
‘I don’t think I’ve ever felt so stressed and under pressure for such a prolonged time.
‘All of us were feeling quite unwell by the end [of the inspection].’
Ms Grover told the court that headteacher Ruth Perry had become ‘overwhelmed’ and ‘very upset’ by the time of the final Ofsted meeting.
She said: ‘There were a lot of moments when she was very panicky and very overwhelmed and very upset.
‘The version of Ruth then was not her at her best.
‘Ruth was extremely distressed.’
Ms Perry’s family maintain she took her own life following the Ofsted report which downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest.
The inquest continues.