York & North Yorkshire

Harrogate teacher set fire to himself at school

A Harrogate teacher who felt under pressure to get good exam results set himself on fire in the school car park, an inquest has heard.

David Charlesworth, a science teacher at Rossett School, died in hospital after suffering 79% burns to his body.

Harrogate Coroner's Court was told he felt stressed that some of his students would not achieve good grades.

The court was told he suffered bouts of depression which often coincided when A-levels students were taking exams.

'Fantastic' teacher

The school's head Patricia Hunter told the inquest how Mr Charlesworth had "very high standards".

She told the court: "He never wanted to let anyone down, particularly the students.

"I think some of that was self-imposed anxiety."

She described him as a "fantastic" teacher and said he wrongly thought some of the coursework marks would be poor.

"There was no reason in my opinion to be disappointed. The exam results didn't bear that out."

His wife Jennifer, a fellow science teacher, recalled how her husband, father to their four-year-old son and five-month-old baby girl, would take coursework on holiday.

The court was told he went to see his GP who initially treated him with medication before referring him to a mental health team in March 2011 where there was a waiting list.

Burnt clothes

The inquest heard he never got assessed and might have benefited from cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

On four occasions, the GP surgery contacted the mental health team to see what was happening.

The hearing was told Mr Charlesworth set fire to himself in the early hours of 11 May.

He managed to get home and summon help but died a day later in hospital.

Items found at the scene included a petrol can, a pile of burnt clothes and a note.

Mrs Charlesworth said she recalled an incident with him where he spoke of being "stuck".

"He persisted in the belief that as a teacher he wasn't up to standard and that he had a responsibility towards the children, their grades and the parents of those children."

Coroner Geoff Fell recorded a verdict that Mr Charlesworth took his own life.

He said he would be writing to the chief executive of North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust with his concerns about the case.

He said he could not be sure the outcome would have been different if Mr Charlesworth had met the mental health team, but added: "I can say the chances of it being so must be greatly increased."

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