Headteacher worried about Ofsted rating - inquest hears

By Carl Jackson Monday 29 April 2013 Updated: 29/04 22:03

A HEADTEACHER who was found hanged in her office had been worried her school's Ofsted rating would be downgraded from 'outstanding', an inquest heard today (Monday).

Helen Mann, 43 and from Droitwich, died on November 5 last year at Sytchampton Endowed First School near Ombersley less than six months after taking charge.

She had previously been the deputy head at Millfields First School in Bromsgrove for almost four years.

Today during the first day of her inquest at Worcestershire Coroners Court it emerged the mother-of-two had been stressed about an upcoming Ofsted report, an ongoing employment tribunal and the previous level of teaching in her own Year 4 class.

Mrs Mann took over at Sytchampton in April last year after the school had gone through five terms without a permanent headteacher.

In May the first issue arose when Angela Mercer, a supply teacher for more than four years at the school, found out her contract was not going to be renewed.

The court heard Mrs Mann found the situation very difficult and broke down in tears when Miss Mercer handed in a sick note shortly after.

The pair had been working together teaching a Year Four class. Miss Mercer who took the stand today said both became concerned that there was little to suggest the pupils had been learning prior to Mrs Mann's arrival and would not meet national standards by the end of the school year.

She said: "Mrs Mann said this was another major issue she had not been made aware of during visits to the school."

Miss Mercer's dispute was eventually settled out of court, however within weeks of Mrs Mann's appointment the school received a report from Worcestershire County Council which stated it would most likely lose its status as 'outstanding' which it had attained in 2006 and 2009.

Although Mrs Mann was not held accountable she was very concerned and worried about not meeting her own high standards, the inquest heard.

Dr Stephanie Gait, chair of governors at the school, denied claims from barrister Richard Copnall she had been 'economical on reality' regarding the issues at Sytchampton prior to offering Mrs Mann the position of headteacher.

Dr Gait said following the end of the summer term Mrs Mann had a changed a lot at the school and 'achieved a huge amount'.

However she added her plans were very 'ambitious' and she was concerned the new headteacher was trying to do 'too much too soon'.

Following the summer holidays witnesses said Mrs Mann returned seemingly unrested and agitated with problems still on her mind and she had lost a 'significant' amount of weight.

In late September she collapsed at a meeting and was subsequently signed off work for two weeks.

After visiting her GP and seeking counselling, Mrs Mann agreed to return to work straight after half term.

She was found hanging in her office on her first day back on November 5. The next day she was due a call with occupational health to make sure she was fit to return to work.

The inquest continues tomorrow.

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