Woodhead sadness after suicide

14th April 2000 at 01:00
CHRIS Woodhead, the chief inspector, has spoken of his sadness following the suicide of a long-serving primary teacher who was driven to despair by a critical inspection report and the stress of her job.

Pamela Relf, 57, jumped into a river on a freezing January day two months after school inspectors said her lessons "lacked pace".

She left a note saying: "I am now finding the stress of my job too much.

"The pace of work and the long days are more than I can do."

An inquest at Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire, heard that Miss Relf, the longest-serving teacher at Middlefield primary school, in Eynesbury, St Neot's, had been left tearful by the inspectors' verdict.

Describing Miss Relf, whose career spanned 36 years, as a popular teacher with a quiet,

gentle approach, headteacher Brian Rayner said: "I have never before seen Pamela in such a state. It concerned me that the school's most senor teacher had been reduced to such a state."

He added: "Like her colleagues in this and all schools there was often the feeling of running to stand still and like all of us, she felt the pressure that resulted."

Miss Relf's body was found in a river at a nature reserve near her home in Eaton Ford. She had disappeared on her way to work on January 4, the day before the start of the new term. Dr Colin Latimore, the coroner, recorded a verdict of suicide while suffering from depression.

Mr Woodhead told Radio 4's Today programme: "Miss Relf's death is obviously very sad and everybody at OFSTED is deeply upset that she was unable to accept what the inspectors said to her.

"We will continue to do all we can to ensure that inspection is rigorous, that it tells the truth about a teacher, but at the same time that we reduce the pressure that's inevitable in any inspection to a minimum."

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