The sister of a headteacher who took her own life after hearing management was being ranked ‘inadequate’ is campaigning to reform ‘punitive’ Ofsted.
Julia Walters, the sister of 53-year-old Ruth Perry who was head of a primary school in Berkshire, said: ‘Ruth killed herself because of this Ofsted report.’
Mother-of-two Mrs Perry killed herself in January, a month after the watchdog downgraded Caversham Primary School, in Reading, from outstanding – an experience she called the worst day of her life.
On Monday, Professor Waters will meet head teachers campaigning to reform Ofsted in her sister’s name and make it a ‘more humane system’.
The 55-year-old professor of French literature at Reading University said: ‘Ruth just saw this one word “inadequate” as summing everything she had ever achieved and it was targeted at her. That is how she felt and it just crushed her.’
Mother-of-two Ruth Perry (pictured) killed herself in January, a month after the watchdog downgraded Caversham Primary School, in Reading, from outstanding – an experience she called the worst day of her life
On Monday, Professor Julia Waters (pictured) will meet head teachers campaigning to reform Ofsted in her sister’s name and make it a ‘more humane system’
Mrs Perry had been principal at Caversham for 12 years, always working long hours, and her family want the way in which schools are inspected and graded to be changed.
The primary school had been ranked ‘outstanding’ since 2009 until November 15, when three Ofsted inspectors arrived.
This was Caversham’s first inspection in 13 years as previously those which had been ranked so highly were exempt.
Amanda Spielman, Ofsted’s chief inspector, carried out inspection of outstanding schools, downgrading many of them.
Mrs Perry claimed inspectors told senior staff they had seen a boy ‘flossing’ – a popular dance move with tens of millions of children around the world thanks to social media – and that this was evidence of the ‘sexualisation of pupils’ at the school.
It is also alleged inspectors told teachers that they had seen child-on-child abuse – but Mrs Perry insisted it was a playground scuffle.
She killed herself on January 8 – two months before the publication of the report, her family have said.
Professor Waters told MailOnline: ‘This one-word judgment is just destroying 32 years of her vocation, education was her vocation. Thirty-two 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.’
The headteacher had an extraordinary bond with the school, having been a pupil there. She returned in 2006 as deputy headteacher, being promoted to principal in 2010.
Mrs Perry’s sister said there is a sense of ‘complete injustice’ about the process behind the inspection and the report.
The report was published this week and found the school to be ‘good’ in every category, apart from leadership and management – where it was judged to be Inadequate.
The report criticised the school for poor record keeping, with gaps in employment checks potentially putting children at risk. This dropped the entire school to an ‘inadequate’ rating, the lowest possible.
Julia says her sister (pictured together) ‘was a huge loss’ and ‘had so much more still to give’
This was Caversham Primary School’s first inspection in 13 years as previously those which had been ranked so highly were exempt
Inspectors said 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.’
But 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.’
Professor Waters still has the text exchange between her and her sister on the day of the inspection.
She messaged to arrange a weekend trip but Mrs Perry replied: ‘I cannot speak now, the Ofsted inspectors are in and it is absolutely dreadful.’
Professor Waters texted back saying ‘Don’t be daft, you run a wonderful school’ but her sister replied: ‘No it is as bad as it can be, I feel completely broken. It is the worst day of my life.’
Matt Rodda, the Labour MP for Reading East, where the school is based, said: ‘I’ve had a meeting with the schools minister and I’ve also raised this with the regional director of Ofsted.
‘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.’
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