Headteacher death ruled as suicide

By Carl Jackson Friday 03 May 2013 Updated: 03/05 22:47

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Buy photos » The inquest into the death of Helen Mann took place this week. (s)

A HEADTEACHER who killed herself at her primary school over fears including an ongoing employment tribunal had tried to end her life ten days earlier, an inquest heard.

Helen Mann, 43 and from Fernhill Heath in Droitwich, had also been worried about the prospect of Sytchampton Endowed First School losing its outstanding Ofsted status.

At Worcestershire Coroners Court this week, deputy coroner Marguerite Elcock returned the verdict Mrs Mann had committed suicide, saying she was a 'dedicated and professional teacher' who had placed 'immensely high' expectations on herself.

The mother-of-two's body was found by the school caretaker on November 5, after she hung herself in the stairwell less than six months after taking the job.

The former Millfields First School teacher, originally from Stoke Prior, took charge at Sytchampton in April last year after the school had gone five terms without a permanent headteacher.

Following her first day she asked her husband Phil why he had let her take the job, saying the school was 'in a mess' with out of date books, systems and strategies.

A month into her role, she had to inform supply teacher Angela Mercer, who had been at Sytchampton for four years, her contract was not going to be renewed.

Miss Mercer contested the decision taking the school to a tribunal which was settled by Worcestershire County Council to 'remove the cloud' from Mrs Mann, the inquest heard.

Mr Mann told the court his wife took the matter personally and blamed herself even though it was not her fault.

In June a county council report revealed the school was likely to be downgraded by Ofsted.

Dr Stephanie Gait, chair of governors at Sytchampton, denied accusations from barrister Richard Copnall she had been 'economical with reality' regarding the state of the school.

She said Mrs Mann was aware of the areas which needed improving when she was employed and added the tribunal was not of her own making.

Dr Gait said Mrs Mann had made a lot changes and achieved a huge amount in a short time but admitted been concerned her plans were too ambitious

After the summer holidays Mrs Mann had lost weight and appeared agitated and unrested according to several witnesses.

She collapsed after at a meeting and was signed off with work-related anxiety.

In a statement, her GP Dr Margaret Keeble said she had seen Mrs Mann ten times between June and November for stress issues and after a meeting in August she described her as significantly lacking in confidence and self esteem.

She agreed to return to work following the October half term break but on October 26 she overdosed on sleeping tablets and was admitted to A&E at the Worcestershire Royal Hospital.

Mrs Mann was discharged as she was considered 'low risk' and Dr Keeble agreed for her to return to work on November 5 for three days a week with no initial teaching commitments.

The night before, Mr Mann said his wife asked him to 'hug me for a while'.

"It didn't click with me until a few days after how significant it was," he added.

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