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Daily Mirror
Daily Mirror
Kelly-Ann Mills

Teachers in silent protest after head killed herself waiting for damning Ofsted report

Two former teachers have stood in protest outside a primary school being inspected by Ofsted after the death of a headteacher.

The two women, who gave their names as Ellen and Liz, were joined outside John Rankin Infant School in Newbury, Berkshire, as current staff walked out and posed for a photograph together at 8.10am.

Ruth Perry, who was head at Caversham Primary School in Reading, killed herself in January while waiting for an Ofsted report which gave her school the lowest possible rating, her family said.

Flora Cooper, the head of John Rankin School, Newbury, had told inspectors due to turn up today they were "refused entry".

She then asked for people to join her at school in support of a campaign to boycott Ofsted in memory of Ruth Perry.

Around 30 staff members from the school this morning lined the school gates for a moments silence - some wearing black armbands.

Police, who turned up at the scene before 8am this morning, looked on as crowd stood in front of the railing which displayed a photo of Ruth, who took her own life.

Liz, a former primary school teacher who was mentored by Ms Perry when the school went into special measures, said: "It is just unimaginable.

"There is not a day where I don't think about Ruth and the loss not only obviously to her family but the entire teaching community.

"She didn't just care and dedicate herself to her school and her pupils, she was also a huge support for schools in the Reading area and beyond.

A photograph of Ruth Perry attached to the school gate (PA)

"She was absolutely brilliant and the pressure and the stress that she was under was immense."

Despite Flora telling thousands on Twitter she wasn't letting inspectors into the school, a governor came to the gates this morning to tell the crowd Ofsted were inside.

At around 9.30am, a man who said he was on the school’s board of governors, told the crowd: "The Ofsted inspection is now going ahead and the school will truly engage in process.

"We are asking everyone to move away from the school entrance and the vicinity to safeguard the family and the children as we start the school day."

A West Berkshire Council spokeswoman said: “An Ofsted inspection at John Rankin School will now go ahead today following discussions between the parties involved yesterday afternoon.

“We understand that the inspection process can be a busy and stressful time for teachers, governors and school staff.

“As a council, we work closely with all of our schools to support them through the inspection process and address any individual concerns."

Ruth Perry was found dead in January (Brighter Futures for Children)

A man who said he was on the board of governors came out from the John Rankin Schools read a statement to reporters just after 9.30am at the school gates.

He said: "The Ofsted inspection is now going to go ahead and the school will fully engage in the process.

"What I'm going to ask you all is to please if you can move away from the school entrance as much as possible, and from the vicinity to safeguard the children and their families as we start the day because most important is the children, the families and their wellbeing. There's no further comment at this time."

He added inspectors had been at the school from just before 8am and the school day had not started yet. He declined to give any further details about himself or the situation.

Yesterday Ms Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Waters, said the negative Ofsted report was as 'unfair' and 'sensationalist'.

In a statement on behalf of the family she said that some of the Ofsted inspectors’ conclusions were "drawn from scant evidence", such as gaps in record-keeping and typical child behaviour.

"In our opinion, the findings of Ofsted were disproportionate, unfair and, as has tragically been proven, deeply harmful in their (implied) focus on one individual," she added.

Ms Waters went on to say that the family was in "no doubt that Ruth’s death was a direct result of the pressure put on her by the process and outcome of an Ofsted inspection at her school."

She also said her sister took her own life "under intolerable pressure from external scrutiny”.

Teaching unions are also calling on Ofsted to take notice and say they need to respond to concerns from across the education sector.

Teachers at John Rankin School, Newbury - some wearing black armbands (SWNS)

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said it is “important” that people listen to what Ms Perry’s family have to say regarding their determination that “something like this should never happen again”.

He added: “Whilst it should never take a tragedy like this to prompt action, this has to be a watershed moment.

“The anger and hurt being expressed currently by school staff is palpable. It is essential that all policymakers, including Ofsted, listen and respond.

“Given the strength of feeling and the need for a period of calm reflection, Ofsted should pause inspections this week.”

Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union (NEU), called it “the height of insensitivity” for Ofsted to inspect schools or colleges this week.

She said: “Ofsted should pause all its inspections and reflect upon the unmanageable and counter-productive stress they cause for school leaders, and the impact on leaders.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: “Ofsted should undertake an immediate review of the impact of inspections on the wellbeing of school and college leaders and staff, and a pause in the inspection cycle would allow for a period in which this could happen.”

Matthew Purves, Ofsted’s regional director for the South East, said: “We were deeply saddened by Ruth Perry’s tragic death. Our thoughts remain with Mrs Perry’s family, friends and everyone in the Caversham Primary School community.”

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