Two academics have called for the Health and Safety Executive to investigate every work-related suicide following the death of a headteacher in January.
Ruth Perry took her own life and her family believes stress associated with an Ofsted inspection contributed to her death.
Caversham Primary School in Reading, where she worked, was waiting for a report to be published downgrading it from outstanding to inadequate when she died.
Professor Martin McKee, from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and University of Leeds professor Sarah Waters, have called for all work-related suicides to be investigated in an article 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).”
The two academics believe the Health and Safety Executive, a government agency responsible for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare, should follow the system in France where all work-related suicides are investigated.
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‘Hand in your badges,’ Ofsted inspectors told “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”.
Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email [email protected] in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK