Home UK News Call for all work-related suicides to be scrutinised following Ruth Perry’s

Call for all work-related suicides to be scrutinised following Ruth Perry’s

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Ruth Perry suicide

Professors Martin McKee from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and Sarah Waters from the University of Leeds have demanded that the Health and Safety Executive investigate all work-related suicides in the wake of the death of headteacher, Ruth Perry.

It is suspected that the stress of an Ofsted inspection, which was undertaken just before the publication of a report downgrading the Caversham Primary School in Reading where she worked from ‘outstanding’ to ‘inadequate’, may have had an effect on her decision to take her own life. The pair have argued their case in an editorial published in the British Medical Journal.

“Even though the link between adverse working conditions and suicide is well established, regulations requiring reporting of work-related deaths to the Health and Safety Executive in Great Britain specifically exclude suicides,” the article says.

“While the almost complete loss of confidence in Ofsted is a matter for those in the education sector to address, the health community has a duty to demand action to tackle the burden of mental ill health associated with the way it operates.

“We argue that three bodies need to act now.

“The first is Ofsted itself. It should publicly accept that it has a duty of care to teachers (and to its inspectors, some of whom are also traumatised by the events we have described).”

Two academics think the agency in charge of prompting, overseeing, and enforcing workplace safety, welfare, and health should adopt a similar system to the one employed in France, which requires an investigation of every suicide that has a professional relation.

“In France, for example, if there is even a suggestion of a link between suicide and working conditions, the burden of proof falls on the employer to show otherwise,” they say.

“In the UK we do not even know with certainty how many teachers have killed themselves in circumstances linked to Ofsted inspections, but we are aware of at least eight others.”

A survey conducted in 2022 by the Teacher Wellbeing Index showed 78% of more than 3,000 teachers reported mental health symptoms they attributed to their work.

“Finally, as Ofsted says that it reports to ‘Parliament, parents, carers, and commissioners’, the Commons education select committee should conduct an urgent inquiry into its impact on the welfare of teaching staff,” the article adds.

Simon Kidwell, vice-president of the National Association of Head Teachers said last month he believes “the framework that underpins the inspection needs redesigning”, declaring that it is “not fit for purpose and it’s not working”.

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