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Headteacher, 43, feared losing top Ofsted grading.

Byline: GARY MARKS Staff Reporter

A HEADTEACHER found hanged at her Midland primary school was concerned it would lose its top Ofsted rating months before she died, an inquest heard.

The body of Helen Mann, 43, was discovered at Sytchampton Endowed First School, near Stourport on Severn, Worcestershire, on November 5 last year.

The mum-of-two had been head of the school for less than six months when she died.

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The inquest before Marguerite Elcock, Deputy Coroner for Worcestershire, heard Mrs Mann was concerned a future Ofsted inspection would see the school lose its "outstanding" rating.

Dr Stephanie Galt, chair of the school Governors, told the hearing: "That had been mentioned in at least one Governors' meeting and we all said that we understood this would be the case but not through any fault of her."

Mrs Mann was appointed after the school had been without a permanent headteacher for five terms. Dr Galt described her as "positive" when she joined the school. "A fellow governor described her as 'bright eyed and bushy tailed'," she told the hearing.

"She was bringing enthusiasm to the job and to achieve what she wanted to see for the school.

"She was doing exactly what we hoped she would."

One of the first tasks she had to perform was to make one part-time teacher, Angela Mercer, redundant - something she found difficult.

"There was an employment issue that was not of her making," Dr Galt said.

"A claim for unfair dismissal was made and had to be dealt with and that weighed heavily on her."

Dr Galt said that Mrs Mann set a very ambitious plan for transforming the school.

"Her school development plan was very ambitious and probably not realistic in the timescale that she had hoped," she said.

"I kept trying to reassure her that she was doing what we hoped she would do and everything was fine.

"I was concerned at that stage she was not the bright-eyed bushytailed young woman who joined us and was being weighed down by what she saw as problems.

"We were starting to have concerns that she was not coping with managerial issues in the way we wanted."

At the start of the next academic year, Dr Galt said Mrs Mann appeared "weighed down" by "what she wanted to achieve" and had noticeably lost weight.

Within a few weeks of the autumn term she went off sick but returned on November 5, while the rest of the school staff were at a training day.

Jacqueline Stanley, a teaching assistant, told the inquest how ill Mrs Mann looked when she came into the school.

"She looked dreadful. It was lovely to see her but she looked so ill," Miss Stanley said.

"My thoughts were 'Oh my goodness you shouldn't be coming back to work'.

"I asked her how she was. She didn't really answer me in a full sentence. It was 'yeah, um, er, I'm getting there'.

"I felt like I just wanted to give her a hug."

The hearing, which is scheduled to last up to four days, was adjourned until today.

CAPTION(S):

Above, Helen Mann was headteacher at Sytchampton Endowed First School in Worcestershire, left.
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Publication:Birmingham Mail (England)
Date:Apr 30, 2013
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