Ruth Perry told husband Ofsted inspector was ‘bully’ with ‘agenda’ – inquest
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Headteacher Ruth Perry felt the Ofsted inspector who led the inspection at her school was a “bully” with an “agenda”, her husband has told an inquest into her death.
Mrs Perry’s family say she took her own life after a report from the watchdog downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest over safeguarding concerns.
Her sister, Professor Julia Waters, previously said Mrs Perry had experienced the “worst day of her life” after inspectors reviewed the school on November 15 and 16 last year.
A statement from Jonathan Perry, Mrs Perry’s husband, was read to the inquest at Berkshire Coroner’s Office in Reading on Wednesday.
He said that his wife seemed “understandably anxious” the day before the inspection, but that she was looking forward to promoting the school.
However, on the first day of the inspection, he received a phone call from his wife asking him to run an errand for her.
“She said that the inspection was going very badly and that she was traumatised,” he said.
When he arrived at the school he said she seemed “very upset”.
He said that his wife told him that she had had a difficult first meeting with the lead Ofsted inspector, Alan Derry.
Previously the inquest heard that the school’s failure to keep safeguarding records was raised at the meeting and that Mrs Perry had started to repeatedly say to Mr Derry “it is not looking good is it?”
Mr Perry told the inquest: “She said she had had a horrendous first meeting with the lead inspector.
“She did not like him. She said it felt like he had come in with an agenda.
He said that she was concerned that failing on child safeguarding would be the end of her career.
She repeated that she felt like the lead inspector had an agenda, she felt he was a bully
“If we fail on safeguarding that is it,” Mr Perry said his wife told him.
“I know what that means, it is the end of my career.
He said he also spoke to his wife later that day, and that she told him that she felt like Mr Derry was a bully.
“She repeated that she felt like the lead inspector had an agenda, she felt he was a bully,” he said.
An inspection report, published on Ofsted’s website in March, found Mrs Perry’s school to be “good” in every category apart from leadership and management, where it was judged to be “inadequate”.
Inspectors said school leaders did not have the “required knowledge to keep pupils safe from harm”, did not take “prompt and proper actions” and had not ensured safeguarding was “effective”.
Mr Perry also told the court about his 21-year-long marriage to the headteacher.
“We had a happy and settled life in the heart of the local community, close to our family and many friends,” he said.
The inquest heard that the couple had bought their dream home together, and were due to exchange contracts in the week of the Ofsted inspection.
Mr Perry said that they did not have a mortgage and they were in a “comfortable” financial position.
He added that his wife loved her job.
“She was dedicated and very hard-working,” he said.
However, he said that the pandemic, and its aftermath, had been very difficult for his wife’s work.
He said that the school had experienced the same kinds of struggles as other schools across the country.
“I think she was probably close to burnout at times,” he said.
“We had only taken a week’s holiday that summer.”