Paying tribute to Ruth Perry

Trigger warning: discussion of suicide

Although there are times when it may not feel it, I think head teachers are generally well respected across society. They certainly deserve respect. I’ve worked with leaders in most sectors and have rarely seen roles of such breadth, complexity and impact. And backed by so little resource. Every head will rightly tell you that it takes an entire team to change and run a great school, but the role of the head is uniquely exposed.

Head teachers pour their hearts and souls into their schools. We ask them to. The task of running a school serving an otherwise neglected community demands it. These schools are frequently amazing, but their successes are fragile. And we offer far too little support to back them up. It is often an act of sustained will that keeps these schools going. It shouldn’t be that way, but it often is.

When all-consuming passion meets high stakes accountability, there is a human price to be paid. In the words of her family, Ruth Perry head teacher of Caversham Primary School paid that price, the last full measure of devotion, in January of this year.

The tragedy of suicide is complex, personal and private. I won’t use it for a policy debate at this time; I would only like to pay tribute to Ruth, offer my condolences to her family and recognise the exceptional leadership to be found at every level of our education system.

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