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The Peterborough Telegraph
Last Updated: 10 December 2007 7:54 PM
A Peterborough head teacher killed himself on the eve of an Ofsted inspection, a coroner has ruled.
Jed Holmes, 53, was found dead at his home in July this year, 24 hours before Government inspectors were due at his primary school.
Mr Holmes, a divorcee, who lived alone, had a flat in the city and had suffered with his health because of the stress of work, the inquest in Peterborough heard, and had been on medication for several months to treat depression.
He was found dead on the morning of July 11 of carbon monoxide poisoning. Police had to knock down his door, and found the remnants of a barbecue fire in the corner of the living room.
Recording a verdict that Mr Holmes had killed himself, Peterborough coroner, Gordon Ryall, said: “He knew that an Ofsted inspection was imminent. There has been evidence from those working with him that he was concerned about that, not that it would seem to be that he needed to be concerned about the performance of the school.
“We can’t exclude the proximity of the Ofsted inspection at the date of his death.
“It was that impending inspection that triggered off the action he decided to take.
“There was no need for that. He would have coped quite comfortably with that. It was just perhaps one thing too much for him to deal with at the time.”
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Stressed head teacher found dead — (The Telegraph)
By David Sapsted
Jed Holmes, who was in his fifties, was found dead at his home in Peterborough by a colleague from Hampton Hargate Primary School at about 10am yesterday.
Mr Holmes had recently been off work with stress.
His school opened in 2000 and was last inspected four years ago when it received a glowing report from Ofsted on the way it was run.
Inspectors had been due to visit the school today and tomorrow but it has now been closed for the rest of the week.
A spokesman for the National Union of Teachers said: “Teachers are under enormous pressure from parents, Ofsted and the demand for ever-rising standards. Some teachers are finding it increasingly hard to cope with that pressure, resulting in illness and, in some very tragic cases, suicide.”
However, a source close to the school said last night: “Jed was well used to these inspections and has always come through them with flying colours. I cannot believe that it would cause him to take his own life if that is, indeed, what happened.”
Despite being off work, Mr Holmes had signed the school newsletter this week telling parents of the imminent inspection.
“You will be aware that Ofsted will be with us on Thursday and Friday this week,” he wrote, “so I am sending out the newsletter a little early this week.”
He added that he wanted parents of the 392 pupils at the school, about three miles from Peterborough city centre, to complete and return the questionnaire he had sent them in time for the Ofsted inspectors to see them.
A spokesman for Peterborough City Council, the local education authority, said: “Parents were told that a teacher had died at home and they were asked to take their children home at lunchtime. The member of staff had already been off work with stress.”
Police said that the death was not suspicious and that the matter was now in the hands of the coroner.
In their report in 2003, Ofsted inspectors said that Hampton Hargate Primary was “a good school with some very good features”. It added: “The head teacher and subject co-ordinators provide good leadership and have worked hard to create a successful and popular new school.
“The head teacher has built a hard-working team which is committed to improving the school further.”
Stress in the teaching profession has been a cause of concern for unions and other professional bodies for years.
A survey by the Health and Safety Executive found that 41.5 per cent of teachers reported themselves to be “highly stressed”. Research by the NUT found that 36 per cent of teachers felt the effects of stress all or most of the time.
The pressure of school inspections was found to be a key reason why teachers, particularly head teachers, felt stress. Other reasons were long working hours, excessive workload and unnecessary bureaucracy.
Callers to the Teacher Support Line also complain about their workload and being “overwhelmed by new initiatives”.
In 2000, a depressed primary school teacher with more than 30 years’ experience drowned herself after being criticised in an Ofsted report, an inquest heard.
Pamela Relf, 57, from St Neots, Cambs, left a note saying she could no longer cope with her work at Middlefields Primary School in Eynesbury, Cambs.