The verdict of Heidi Connor, senior coroner for Berkshire, recognises the terrible pressures on Ruth Perry at the same time of her death and exposes the conduct of Ofsted.
Ruth Perry’s suicide, the coroner said, was “contributed to by an Ofsted inspection”.
“During and after this inspection, Ruth’s mental health deteriorated significantly.” Parts of the inspection, the coroner judged, were “rude and intimidating”.
The coroner did not regard Ofsted witnesses as truthful. The claim they made that “school inspections can be paused if the distress of a headteacher is a concern”, was "a mythical creature created and expanded upon at this inquest."
The coroner’s verdict is a vindication of those who have sought accountability for the impact of the current inspection regime on leaders’ welfare. It is a devastating blow to Ofsted’s standing: the organisation does harm; it covers up the truth.
In her response to the verdict, Chief Inspector Amanda Spielman demonstrated that she heads an organisation that does not comprehend the seriousness of what has happened and what is at risk.
She maintained that Ofsted has a “deep understanding of the work that schools do and the demands on school leaders”. And in an announcement which was truly staggering in its misunderstanding of the situation, she said that inspections will be delayed by a day next week, to allow inspectors to be trained around questions of stress.
The union calls for urgent measures and immediate changes in response to the coroner’s verdict and conclusions. Ofsted’s inspections of schools must be paused not for a day but a longer period, until a better model of accountability and school improvement can be developed. We are in desperate need of a system that is fair, supportive and constructive. The age of adversarial inspection has passed.