Ruth Perry: Death of headteacher’s statement urges authorities to thoroughly examine any instances of suicide related to work.

Following the suicide of a headteacher named Ruth Perry, who allegedly took her own life due to stress related to an Ofsted inspection, two academics have urged the Health and Safety Executive to thoroughly investigate every instance of work-related suicides.

At the time of her death, Caversham Primary School in Reading, where she was employed, anticipated the release of a report that would change its rating from “outstanding” to “inadequate.”

Professor Martin McKee and Professor Sarah Waters, hailing from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Leeds respectively, have urged for a comprehensive inquiry into all instances of work-related suicides. Their plea was published in an article featured 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 scholars argue that the Health and Safety Executive, which is a governmental organization in charge of promoting, regulating, and ensuring health, safety, and well-being in workplaces, should adopt the investigative approach used in France for all cases of suicides related to work.