An Ofsted inspector “sniggered loudly” and had a “mocking tone” during a meeting with headteacher Ruth Perry, an inquest into her death has heard.

Ms Perry’s family say she took her own life after a report from the watchdog downgraded her Caversham Primary School in Reading from its highest rating to its lowest, over safeguarding concerns.

Her sister, Professor Julia Waters, previously said Ms Perry had experienced the “worst day of her life” after inspectors reviewed the school on November 15 and 16 last year.

Ofsted inspector Alan Derry led the inspection at the school.

On Wednesday he continued giving evidence at the inquest at Berkshire Coroner’s Office in Reading.

Ruth Perry's sister, Professor Julia Waters
Ruth Perry’s sister, Professor Julia Waters, previously said Ms Perry had experienced the ‘worst day of her life’ (NAHT/PA)

Hugh Southey KC, on behalf of the family, quoted from a witness statement from deputy headteacher Clare Jones-King, who attended a meeting between Mr Derry and Ms Perry on the afternoon of November 15.

“She referred to you as having sniggered loudly and having a mocking and unpleasant tone,” he said.

Mr Derry denied that he behaved in that way.

The inquest also heard evidence that Ms Perry became tearful during meetings with Ofsted inspectors.

Mr Derry was asked if he should have paused the inspection, given Ms Perry’s mental state.

“No, not at all,” he said.

“There was a major safeguarding concern around the safeguarding of children, and this needed to be immediately addressed and safely addressed.”

Mr Derry told the court that he could have paused the inspection by “proactively” ringing a senior colleague, or that senior colleague could have asked him to pause the inspection after reading his notes.

“That is what I believe to be the system,” he said.

“I have never had to do it.”

He was asked why he did not speak to the school leaders about Ms Perry.

“Ms Perry suggested to me that that was what she was doing,” he said.

“That she had the support of her senior leadership team and that she was doing that.”

Jonathan Auburn, on behalf of Reading Borough Council, asked Mr Derry if school leaders could have raised concerns about Ms Perry’s welfare with him, given the description of his tone in one of the meetings as “mocking”.

“Yes, I think they could have,” he said.

The court also heard evidence from Claire Wilkins, one of the other Ofsted inspectors who attended Caversham Primary School.

She said that she became so concerned about Ms Perry’s welfare after the final team meeting on November 16 that she asked school leaders if there was someone at home who could look after the headteacher.

“I could see how hard Ruth was taking this,” she said.

An inspection report published on Ofsted’s website in March found Ms 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”.