FACK statement on Coroner’s conclusion of Ofsted inspection’s contribution to suicide

Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK) Statement on inquest into the death of Ruth Perry Head Teacher of Caversham Primary School Coroner’s conclusion: Suicide contributed to by an Ofsted inspection.

News release – no embargo – 7 December 2023

On behalf of Families Against Corporate Killers (FACK), facilitator Hilda Palmer said today:

“There must be massive and constructive change from this painful process and Ruth’s death must be the ‘enough is enough’ moment, no more Ofsted deaths.

“The Coroner made clear that the’ inner workings of Ofsted’ were not in scope for the Inquest, but teachers reports and evidence heard makes clear it is not only the conduct of the inspections that causes acute stress but the fear of the high stakes consequences.  A bad one word judgement can lead to forced academisation of your school, loss of your job, reputation, career with no realistic chance to defend yourself or challenge Ofsted errors of fact or judgement. The weeks of delay between the inspection draft report and publication of report during which time Heads are not permitted, on threat of action against them, to speak to anyone outside of a tiny circle, even a mental health professional, puts intolerable stress on Head Teachers.

“We welcome the conclusions of the Berkshire Chief Coroner, Heidi Connor, based on a finding of facts that Ruth Pery’s death was suicide contributed to by an Ofsted inspection in November 2022, and unequivocally linking her deteriorating state of mind and death to the Ofsted inspection which was at times ‘rude & intimidating, lacked fairness, respect and sensitivity’.

“Ruth was a remarkable woman and a successful, well respected and much liked Head Teacher running an outstanding popular school, committed to the good education safety and welfare of the children.

“She was also much more than this, a much loved and loving wife, mother, sister and daughter, and a friend to many. She worked hard and achieved great things and had no history of mental ill health. All that changed within minutes of the Ofsted Inspection beginning and the loss to her family, friends and Caversham Primary School children and parents is immensely painful.

“At the inquest, Professor Julia Waters, Ruth’s sister,  bravely and eloquently painted a beautiful picture of her beloved sister and her rich and happy life, in words from her parents, her husband and herself and ended with: “We shall feel her terrible loss for the rest of our lives”.

“We are sorry that the coroner refused a renewed Article 2 application from the family, which would mean the state have to carry out an ‘enhanced investigation’ into a death as she said she does not have ‘sufficient concern about systems to protect life’.

And FACK renews its demands that all families have free legal representation provided for Inquests to ‘ensure equality arms’ when they face employers and state funded organisations and are able to challenge, to question and get the answers they need..

“We welcome the Coroner’s Conclusion and her Regulation 28 Preventing Future Deaths recommendations.to Ofsted and the Local Authority and. her hope that the Parliamentary Education Committee and Secretary of State will also consider her findings.

“We believe Ruth’s death and those of other teachers might have been prevented had concern about the suicides of other teachers related to Ofsted over the years been taken more seriously, investigated and acted upon preventatively by the Health and Safety Executive, HSE, Ofsted and Local Authorities when they happened. And we believe it is also essential that the HSE records, investigates and acts to prevent all work-related suicides in schools and all workplaces, something it refuses to do currently.

“After hearing evidence during the Inquest we are even more sceptical that Ofsted can be reformed. It should be scrapped and replaced by a cooperative, collaborative and supportive inspection system, which is accountable and effective in improving schools without destroying the health and lives of teachers.

“Nothing will bring Ruth back, but knowing that stringent efforts are being demanded of the organisations which had a role in her death, and of other related organisations, to prevent the deaths of other teachers in future is an outcome that Ruth’s family wanted. Julia Waters, Ruth’s sister, has fearlessly and eloquently exposed the unbearable and unfair stress of Ofsted inspections, the lack of protection and redress for Head Teachers, given thousands of teachers a chance to speak out, made their concerns a subject of public debate and investigation ever since Ruth’s death. We thank Julia and her family for all they have done to stop Ofsted deaths.

“FACK, Greater Manchester Hazards Centre, Hazards Campaign and Hazards Magazine pledge ourselves to continue the campaign to make all work suicides reportable, investigated and preventive action taken. No one should be driven to deaths of despair by work.”

For more information contact Hilda Palmer 079298 00240 hilda@gmhazards.org.uk

Notes to Editors

Papers and articles relating to Work-Suicide and the problem of the HSE refusing to record or investigate the causes and prevent them.

• Professor Sarah Waters, Hilda Palmer Work Suicides are uncounted: https://ahc.leeds.ac.uk/languages/news/article/1866/work-related-suicides-are-uncounted

• Waters and McKee, BMJ, Ofsted and case of official negligence? https://www.bmj.com/content/bmj/381/bmj.p1147.full.pdf

• Waters and Palmer, Journal of Public Health Dying at work. Work-related suicide – how does the UK regulatory context measure up? https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/JPMH-09-2021-0114/full/html

• Our postcard campaign to the HSE over many years saw thousands of postcards delivered by mail to the CEO and now is an ecard campaign: https://www.hazards.org/hsesuicide/ • Rory O’Neill Hazards Latest article : https://www.hazards.org/suicide/wedespair.htm • Earlier articles: https://www.hazards.org/suicide/suicidalwork.htm • https://www.hazards.org/suicide/pressuregrows

Founder Members of FACK:

Dawn and Paul Adams – son Samuel Adams aged 6 killed at Trafford Centre, 10th October 1998

Linzi Herbertson -husband Andrew Herbertson 29, killed at work in Oldham, January 1998

Mike and Lynne Hutin – son Andrew Hutin 20, killed at work at Corus, Port Talbot on 8th Nov 2001

Mick & Bet Murphy – son Lewis Murphy 18, killed at work in Brighton on 21st February 2004

Louise Taggart – brother Michael Adamson 26, killed at work ion Aberdeen, on 4th August 2005

Linda Whelan – son Craig Whelan 23, (and Paul Wakefield) killed at work in Bolton on 23rd May 2002

Dorothy & Douglas Wright – son Mark Wright 37, killed at work in Deeside on 13th April 2005

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