A headteacher was said to have had the "worst day of her life" during an Ofsted inspection before she took her own life.

Ruth Perry felt the Ofsted inspector who came to her school was a "bully" with an "agenda", her husband has told an inquest looking into her death. Mrs Perry tragically took her own life in January. This, her family said, came after a report from the watchdog downgraded her school, 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.

Julia Waters, sister of Ruth Perry, leaving the inquest into her death (
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)

He described his wife as "understandably anxious" the day before the inspection but said she had been looking forward to promoting her school. However, on the first day of the inspection, she rang him up asking him to run an errand for her. During this call she said the "inspection was going very badly" and Mr Perry described her as "traumatised".

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.

Mr Perry said his wife told him "if we fail on safeguarding that is it. I know what that means, it is the end of my career. I’m destroyed." 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. He said: "She repeated that she felt like the lead inspector had an agenda, she felt he was a bully."

Caversham Primary School headteacher Ruth Perry (
Brighter Futures for Children)

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. He said: "We had a happy and settled life in the heart of the local community, close to our family and many friends,". 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."

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