Ofsted inspectors flagged welfare concerns about a head teacher who later took her own life, insiders at the quango have privately claimed.
The watchdog has refused to comment on circumstances surrounding the death of Ruth Perry, who was the head of Caversham Primary School in Reading, amid mounting calls to overhaul school inspections.
Ms Perry took her own life in January, and her sister has said her death was a “direct result” of the “process and outcome” of an Ofsted inspection that saw the school’s rating downgraded from “outstanding” to “inadequate”.
Senior figures at Ofsted have privately defended how the visit was handled, The Telegraph understands, saying the inspection team recognised that Ms Perry was under significant pressure and needed help, and raised this with the local authority.
Brighter Futures for Children, a not-for-profit company that Reading Borough Council uses to run its schools, said it had no record of such contact being made.
In a statement, it said: “The thoughts of everyone at Brighter Futures for Children remain, of course, firmly with Ruth Perry’s family, friends and the whole school community.
“We have no record of a call of this nature coming from an Ofsted inspector at the time of the inspection taking place at Caversham Primary School in November.
“Brighter Futures for Children offers support to school leaders before, during and after an Ofsted inspection. We work closely with head teachers, other senior staff and school governors, providing support, guidance and advice.”
Ofsted declined to comment when approached by The Telegraph, saying it was unable to do so ahead of a coroner’s inquest.
Amanda Spielman, the chief inspector of Ofsted, said in a statement on Friday: “Ruth Perry’s death was a tragedy. Our thoughts remain with Ruth’s family, friends and the school community at Caversham Primary. I am deeply sorry for their loss.
“Ahead of the coroner’s inquest, it would not be right to say too much. But I will say that the news of Ruth’s death was met with great sadness at Ofsted.
“We know that inspections can be challenging and we always aim to carry them out with sensitivity as well as professionalism. Our school inspectors are all former or serving school leaders. They understand the vital work head teachers do, and the pressures they are under. For so many colleagues, this was profoundly upsetting news to hear.”
Education unions have demanded the suspension of Ofsted inspections, with head teachers calling for the watchdog to drop its one-word school ratings.
At some schools, heads have worn black armbands during inspections or removed references to Ofsted from their websites.
However, Ms Spielman said: “I don’t believe that stopping or preventing inspections would be in children’s best interests.”
She said inspection played an “important part” in raising standards, adding: “We help parents understand how their child’s school is doing and we help schools understand their strengths and areas for improvement. It’s important for that work to continue.”
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