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Ruth Perry told husband lead Ofsted inspector was a bully, inquest hears | Ofsted

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Ruth Perry feared that her career as a headteacher was being “destroyed” by a hostile Ofsted inspection, telling her husband that the lead inspector was a bully with an agenda, an inquest into her death has been told.

Jonathan Perry said in a statement to Berkshire’s coroner’s court that his wife left home happy on the first day of the inspection, but she quickly became deeply distressed after meetings with the lead inspector, Alan Derry.

The inquest is investigating Perry’s death earlier this year, which occurred shortly after Ofsted’s inspection of Caversham primary school where Perry was headteacher. Ofsted downgraded the school from “outstanding” to “inadequate” over ineffective safeguarding.

In his first public comment since her death, Jonathan Perry said his wife had not been “overly stressed” by the prospect of her school being inspected. But in a phone call on the first morning of the inspection, he said, “she sounded very upset and said that the inspection was going really badly and she was traumatised”.

When he met her later that day, she looked “pale and stressed”, he said. “She said that she’d had a horrendous first meeting with the inspector. She did not like him. She said it felt like he’d come in with an agenda.

“I tried to reassure her that he couldn’t have made up his mind already and that she shouldn’t worry too much. I remember her saying: ‘I think I’m going to lose my job.’ I tried to reassure her but she said: ‘If we fail on safeguarding that’s it, I know what that means, it’s the end of my career, I’m destroyed.’”

He said: “I’d never seen Ruth like that before. I tried to reassure her what a brilliant headteacher she was. But she was in a terrible state and couldn’t be comforted. When Ruth came home from school she was distraught and distressed. She repeated that she felt the lead inspector had an agenda. She felt he was a bully and that if she disagreed with his interpretation of something he’d accuse her of being in denial.”

An inadequate grading for safeguarding would mean an overall grade of inadequate, with the school then liable to be converted into an academy with senior staff replaced, including Perry as headteacher.

The inquest also heard from Nicola Leroy, the school’s business manager, who saw Perry after a meeting with Derry on the first morning. She described her as “extremely distressed” and unable to speak clearly.

Leroy said: “She felt bombarded by questions relentlessly, not having a chance to breathe or think before he moved on to the next topic. I would say she felt intimidated.”

Leroy said that after the inspection, Perry told her and another member of staff that she had considered taking her own life. They immediately reported their concerns to Reading borough council, as Perry’s employer, and to the school’s governors.

Leroy said Perry was a “tough cookie” in handling difficult conversations with parents and staff. She said: “I had never seen Ruth behave in the way she did in the inspection – it was a very different Ruth than I had seen before.”

Derry earlier told the inquest that Perry appeared to be in “physical pain” in meetings at the end of the inspection. The inquest heard that at one point Perry made a low, moaning sound, and when invited to speak she would only say she was sad.

Derry agreed that he had not followed up any concerns for Perry’s wellbeing with the school’s governors or in a meeting with a representative of the local authority. But he told the inquest: “I have a very good understanding of mental health.”

In response to questions from Ofsted’s lawyer, Derry said he had previously experienced a “significant psychotic episode” that had kept him off work for a year, adding: “I know what it’s like to be suicidal and have those thoughts.”

Derry and the other members of the inspection team were questioned over whether they should have paused or suspended the inspection as a result of Perry’s distress.

Asked if Perry’s reaction was normal in his experience, Gavin Evans, one of the three inspectors, said: “Many times in inspections, as a school leader and an Ofsted inspector, there are tears, upset, frustration.”

The inquest is scheduled to continue for three more days.


Ruth Perry feared that her career as a headteacher was being “destroyed” by a hostile Ofsted inspection, telling her husband that the lead inspector was a bully with an agenda, an inquest into her death has been told.

Jonathan Perry said in a statement to Berkshire’s coroner’s court that his wife left home happy on the first day of the inspection, but she quickly became deeply distressed after meetings with the lead inspector, Alan Derry.

The inquest is investigating Perry’s death earlier this year, which occurred shortly after Ofsted’s inspection of Caversham primary school where Perry was headteacher. Ofsted downgraded the school from “outstanding” to “inadequate” over ineffective safeguarding.

In his first public comment since her death, Jonathan Perry said his wife had not been “overly stressed” by the prospect of her school being inspected. But in a phone call on the first morning of the inspection, he said, “she sounded very upset and said that the inspection was going really badly and she was traumatised”.

When he met her later that day, she looked “pale and stressed”, he said. “She said that she’d had a horrendous first meeting with the inspector. She did not like him. She said it felt like he’d come in with an agenda.

“I tried to reassure her that he couldn’t have made up his mind already and that she shouldn’t worry too much. I remember her saying: ‘I think I’m going to lose my job.’ I tried to reassure her but she said: ‘If we fail on safeguarding that’s it, I know what that means, it’s the end of my career, I’m destroyed.’”

He said: “I’d never seen Ruth like that before. I tried to reassure her what a brilliant headteacher she was. But she was in a terrible state and couldn’t be comforted. When Ruth came home from school she was distraught and distressed. She repeated that she felt the lead inspector had an agenda. She felt he was a bully and that if she disagreed with his interpretation of something he’d accuse her of being in denial.”

An inadequate grading for safeguarding would mean an overall grade of inadequate, with the school then liable to be converted into an academy with senior staff replaced, including Perry as headteacher.

The inquest also heard from Nicola Leroy, the school’s business manager, who saw Perry after a meeting with Derry on the first morning. She described her as “extremely distressed” and unable to speak clearly.

Leroy said: “She felt bombarded by questions relentlessly, not having a chance to breathe or think before he moved on to the next topic. I would say she felt intimidated.”

Leroy said that after the inspection, Perry told her and another member of staff that she had considered taking her own life. They immediately reported their concerns to Reading borough council, as Perry’s employer, and to the school’s governors.

Leroy said Perry was a “tough cookie” in handling difficult conversations with parents and staff. She said: “I had never seen Ruth behave in the way she did in the inspection – it was a very different Ruth than I had seen before.”

Derry earlier told the inquest that Perry appeared to be in “physical pain” in meetings at the end of the inspection. The inquest heard that at one point Perry made a low, moaning sound, and when invited to speak she would only say she was sad.

Derry agreed that he had not followed up any concerns for Perry’s wellbeing with the school’s governors or in a meeting with a representative of the local authority. But he told the inquest: “I have a very good understanding of mental health.”

In response to questions from Ofsted’s lawyer, Derry said he had previously experienced a “significant psychotic episode” that had kept him off work for a year, adding: “I know what it’s like to be suicidal and have those thoughts.”

Derry and the other members of the inspection team were questioned over whether they should have paused or suspended the inspection as a result of Perry’s distress.

Asked if Perry’s reaction was normal in his experience, Gavin Evans, one of the three inspectors, said: “Many times in inspections, as a school leader and an Ofsted inspector, there are tears, upset, frustration.”

The inquest is scheduled to continue for three more days.

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