Headteacher found hanged at school feared Ofsted review, inquest hears

A headteacher found hanged at her primary school was concerned it would lose its top Ofsted rating months before she died, an inquest has heard. This is from the Guardian…

The body of Helen Mann, 43, was discovered at Sytchampton endowed first school, near Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, on 5 November.

Mann had been head of the school for less than six months when she died, having taken charge after the Easter holidays.

The inquest before Marguerite Elcock, deputy coroner for Worcestershire, heard that Mann was concerned that if an Ofsted inspection was imminent, the school would lose its “outstanding” rating.

Dr Stephanie Galt, the chair of the school’s board of governors, told the hearing in Stourport: “She was very concerned about whenever our next Ofsted review would be.

“The school had been classified as outstanding in its previous inspection and she was concerned that it wouldn’t be classified as outstanding if they were to come in soon.

“That had been mentioned in at least one governors’ meeting and we all said that we understood this would be the case but not through any fault of her[s].”

The inquest heard that the local education authority (LEA) had undertaken its own assessment and had revealed in May last year that the school was unlikely to maintain its top Ofsted rating.

The hearing was told that Mann was appointed after the school had been without a permanent headteacher for five terms.

Galt described Mann as “positive” when she joined the school.

“A fellow governor described her as ‘bright eyed and bushy tailed’,” she told the hearing. “She was bringing enthusiasm to the job and to achieve what she wanted to see for the school. She was doing exactly what we hoped she would.”

One of the first tasks Mann had to perform was to make one part-time teacher, Angela Mercer, redundant at the end of the school year – something she found difficult and which was having a “detrimental affect upon her”.

“There was an employment issue that was not of her making,” Galt said. “There was a contract to be terminated which she went through the process on behalf of the governors but that was challenged by the person whose contract wasn’t to be renewed and Helen found that very difficult.

“There was a hearing that Helen was at and I know she found that very difficult. I was not there but I was told by the governors that were there that she was visibly distressed following that meeting.

“A claim for unfair dismissal was made and had to be dealt with and that weighed heavily on her.”

The inquest was told that the school – through the LEA’s lawyers – reached an out-of-court settlement with Mercer in October.

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