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Last Updated: Monday, 10 December 2007, 20:50 GMT
Ofsted-fear head killed himself
Jed Holmes
Head teacher Jed Holmes was found dead at his home
A head teacher killed himself, prompted by fears over an Ofsted inspection of his primary school the following day, a coroner has ruled.

Jed Holmes was off work with stress when he was found dead from carbon monoxide poisoning at his flat, with remnants of a barbecue fire in a room.

He died on the eve of an Ofsted inspection in July at Hampton Hargate Primary School, Peterborough.

The coroner said the evidence showed he was concerned about the inspection.

"We can't exclude the proximity of the Ofsted inspection at the date of his death," said Gordon Ryall, Peterborough coroner.

It was just perhaps one thing too much for him to deal with at the time
Gordon Ryall, coroner

"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."

Mr Holmes suffered from heart problems. His GP told the hearing at Peterborough Magistrates' Court that the headteacher was diagnosed with moderate to severe depression in February.

He responded well to drugs and treatment and gradually returned to work after taking time off.

Dr Neil Sanders said: "The reason for his depression at this time was his feeling of stress and pressure at work and his feeling of letting other people down."

'Felt suicidal'

Despite returning to work, Mr Holmes was making plans to retire from teaching at Christmas.

Stepdaughter Karen Rodger told the hearing: "He told us he knew too many people in his profession who had died from heart attacks young."

Described as an intensely private man who spoke little of any personal or professional problems, Mr Holmes told a number of friends or colleagues that he was feeling depressed.

He told school manager Vickie Ronzano that he had been "in a dark place and felt suicidal". She told the hearing that his work had become increasingly disorganised in recent months, with paperwork piling up in his office.

Hampton Hargate's deputy headteacher, Sarah Moss, said the previous Ofsted report, in 2003, had been very good although recent exam results had dipped slightly, which she attributed to the growing numbers of children at the school.

Extra support

In the previous year the school, which Mr Holmes joined in 2000, had grown from 60 children to more than 100.

The court heard there was no suicide note or anything to prove he had meant to kill himself when he was found dead on the morning of 11 July.

Following the inquest, the Department for Children, Schools and Families defended the use of testing and inspections and said headteachers were being given extra support with administration.

A spokesman said he could not comment on Mr Holmes's case but said the numbers of support staff to help heads had been doubled.

"We have changed inspections so they are light touch and less often; there are only four sets of compulsory tests in a year," he said.

SEE ALSO
Tributes paid to dead school head
12 Jul 07 |  Cambridgeshire
Head found dead before inspection
11 Jul 07 |  Cambridgeshire

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