Pressure of inspection 'drove Scottish primary head to suicide'

11th December 2009 at 00:00
Brother tells inquiry that visit was the final straw for 'very stressed' headteacher

A scottish primary headteacher committed suicide after her school experienced a stressful and difficult inspection, an inquiry heard this week.

Irene Hogg, head of Glendinning Terrace Primary in Galashiels, where she also taught, apparently took her own life in March last year following a visit by HMIE, Scotland's equivalent of Ofsted.

Police reports say she died from "immersion in water and paracetamol toxicity".

Mary Ross, a friend and recently retired head of St Boswells Primary, told the inquiry Ms Hogg had phoned her just days before she died. Her voice sounded "very flat" and she said the inspection "had not gone particularly well", Ms Ross said.

"I think she said, 'It's all down to me,'" Ms Ross told the inquiry.

"She was exhibiting to me how I felt at the end of my inspection. She was tired and exhausted and feeling very down about it."

Ms Hogg, who was 54, was not enjoying changes to her job, her brother Roger Hogg said in his evidence.

She was a private person who was very strong, forceful, able, confident and professional, said Mr Hogg. He had visited her school on several occasions and there was "never any doubt who was in charge".

She was, however, getting bogged down in bureaucracy and administration. Tasks she did not feel were "appropriate or necessary" were removing her from what she saw as her main role of "teaching the kids".

As a result, she had planned to take early retirement in June last year, just months after she was found dead, he said.

At the start of the school year in September 2007, she contacted the local authority to say she was "not coping in her job" and was depressed, something that was completely out of character, he said.

A supply teacher was brought into the school to provide additional support but a new, permanent staff member, due to take up post early last year, never materialised.

In February 2008, Ms Hogg received notification that Glendinning was to be inspected.

She was very stressed leading up to the inspection, very stressed during it and particularly stressed after it, said Mr Hogg.

Former headteacher David Kiernan worked free of charge at Glendinning for three days in the week before inspectors arrived, to "take the pressure off", he told the inquiry. Nonetheless, the inspection process was "torturous" and in Ms Hogg's mind had been "disastrous", according to her brother.

"The impression I had was she felt her whole professional being had been undermined by the outcome or by the process and the outcome," said Mr Hogg.

He blamed the inspection for his sister's death, saying if it had not taken place she would still be alive today. It was "the straw that broke the camel's back", he said.

In a letter she left at her house in Melrose, Ms Hogg wrote: "I am so sorry. I have just muddled through the last few years. I have made a mess of everything."

The family had asked for a fatal accident inquiry because "if this set of circumstances can happen to Irene, it can happen to anyone else at all", her brother said.

He called for the lead-up to the inspection at Glendinning and its aftermath to be examined to uncover any lessons that should be learnt.

The inquiry continues.

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