A female director who committed suicide at 53 over an Ofsted report called him ‘worst day of my life’ and claimed she was demoted after a boy was seen flossing and an inspector insisted the common dance move was ‘sexual’, it emerged today.
Ruth Perry, who was married with children and had been headmistress at Caversham Primary School in Reading since 2010, took her own life in January this year believing the result was a “gross injustice”.
Ms Perry claimed that inspectors told senior staff that they had seen a child ‘flossing’, a dance move popular with tens of millions of children around the world, and that this was evidence of the sexualisation of the students at school.
It is also alleged that inspectors told teachers they had seen child-on-child abuse, but Ms Perry insisted it was a fight on the playground. Ms Perry was told the school was being downgraded from Outstanding to Inadequate, and she killed herself while she waited for the report to be released, her family said.
Her sister Julia said the inspection, which took place on November 15-16 last year, devastated Ms Perry, who told her it was “the worst day of my life” and that the experience was “terrible”.
His beloved sister became ‘an absolute shadow of her former self’, she said, adding: ‘This one word judgment is destroying 32 years of her calling, education was her calling. 32 years summed up in one word, Inadequate. She just preyed on her mind until she couldn’t take it anymore. It was a great loss, she was my little sister and she was only 53 years old, she still had so much more to give, so much more that she could do.
Ruth Perry took her own life in January this year while waiting for an Ofsted report to be published
Ms Perry’s sister Julia (pictured) told BBC South that Ofsted’s inspection left the headmistress a “shadow of her former self”.
Ms Perry had been headmistress at Caversham Primary School (pictured) for over a decade when Ofsted decided to demote her from Outstanding to Inadequate.
The principal had an extraordinary bond with the school, having been a student there. She returned in 2006 as assistant director and was promoted to director in 2010.
Ms Perry’s sister said there was a sense of “utter unfairness” about the process behind the inspection and report. The inspection was the first for primary in 13 years, after rules exempting outstanding schools from being thoroughly examined by Ofsted were removed.
She told BBC South: “I said ‘It can’t be that bad’ and she said ‘yes it is, it’s as bad as it can be’.”
“Throughout that whole process, every time I talked to her, she would talk about the countdown. I clearly remember one day when she said “52 days and counting”.
“Every day he had this weight on his shoulders and he was not officially allowed to speak to his family. I remember the first time I saw her instead of just talking on the phone a couple of days after the end of the Ofsted inspection, she was an absolute shadow of her former self.
It is claimed that the inspectors had decided after the first day of the two-day inspection to demote him, as well as making unsubstantiated claims about the sexualisation of children at the school.
Ms. Perry took her own life on January 8 of this year, just over two months before the report was published, prompting an outpouring of grief from family, friends, colleagues and the school community.
The report, which was released this week, found the school to be Good in all categories except leadership and administration, where it was deemed Inadequate.
The report criticized the school for poor record keeping, with gaps in employment controls that could put children at risk. This reduced the entire school to an Inadequate rating, the lowest possible.
The inspectors said that “most students behave sensibly and live up to the high expectations of staff,” adding: “Students know who to turn to if they have a concern or problem, feeling confident that they will get the help they need.” Relations between staff and students are warm and supportive. Bullying incidents are rare.
But they added: ‘Leaders don’t have the knowledge to keep students safe. They have not taken prompt and appropriate action when students are at risk. They have not made sure that the protection is effective throughout the school.’
The report states: ‘The governors have an ambitious vision for students and staff. However, they have not ensured that they meet their legal safeguarding responsibilities. Until the inspection, they were not aware of significant weaknesses in the school’s arrangements to keep students safe.’
He added that the school does not have “robust processes” to combat persistent absenteeism of some students and that leaders have a “weak understanding of safeguarding requirements and procedures.”
Julia says her sister (pictured together) “was a huge loss” and “had so much more to give.”
Ofsted inspectors said leadership and management at Caversham Primary School were inadequate
Matt Rodda, the Labor MP for Reading East, where the school is based, said: “I had a meeting with the school minister and I also raised this with Ofsted’s regional director.
Matt Rodda, a Labor MP for Reading East, said he had raised the issue with Ofsted’s regional director.
“I think it’s fair to say that there are local concerns about the way the inspection was carried out. Also about the way the Ofsted framework and other regulations affecting Ofsted work effectively, and the broader pressure on directors.’
In a statement to BBC South, Ofsted said: “We were deeply saddened by the tragic death of Ruth Perry. Our thoughts remain with Ms. Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Elementary School community.’
Ms. Perry was a student at the school before returning in 2006 as Assistant Principal and promoted to Principal in 2010.
In a statement released after her death, her family said: “We are devastated by the sudden loss of a lovely mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, niece, sister-in-law and friend.”
“She leaves a huge and painful void in all of our lives and, we know, in the lives of so many others who were lucky enough to know her.
‘We thank all our friends for their thoughts and support now and in the difficult years ahead. Ruth will be remembered for the kind, funny, confident, vivacious and loving person that she was and for all that she accomplished in life.
“We also ask those who did not know Ruth to respect our privacy, as we come to terms with our unfathomable pain, and to carefully consider how their words and actions may affect others.”
‘As the many tributes she received from the school at large and the Caversham community attest, Ruth cared deeply not only for academic results, but also for the general well-being and happiness of the pupils and staff whom she taught and directed.
‘Caversham Primary was a very happy school under Ruth’s leadership and despite the many challenges that the role of Headmistress always brings, she too was happy there.
‘Ruth was a dedicated director and an excellent teacher. She loved the students and staff at Caversham Primary School and she was very proud to have been their Headmistress for 12 years and previously Assistant Headmistress for four years.
‘Ruth was a force for good in her life, and we want her to be a force for positive change after her death as well.
‘We would urge anyone affected by his death to speak up about their feelings and know that help is available. Local and national helplines, advice and support can be found on the reading family information service website.’
- For confidential support, please call Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritanos.org for details