Teacher died after setting himself alight in Harrogate school car park

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

Science teacher David Charlesworth, 43, managed to get home and summon help after he set himself alight in the car park of Rossett School in May last year.

He died a day later in hospital after suffering 79% burns to his body, Harrogate Coroner’s Court was told.

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

The hearing heard he felt stressed that some of his students would not achieve good grades.

The court was told he suffered from bouts of depression over a three year period, which often coincided with “peaks of workload” when A-level students were sitting exams.

On one occasion, he feared he would be “massively disappointed” with some coursework marks, which turned out to be unfounded.

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The school’s head Patricia Hunter told the hearing, sitting at the magistrates’ court, 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.

“They all did incredibly well and met the target for the group,” she said.

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“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 would take coursework on holiday.

After asking the head what support her husband received at school, Mrs Charlesworth added: “He felt responsible for it all.

“He felt under pressure that the children get the grades and the pressure was only his and that wasn’t comfortable with him.”

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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.

The court was told there was a waiting time of between two and six weeks to be seen.

However, the hearing heard Mr Charlesworth never got assessed and may have benefited from Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

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

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Alan Coates, a manager with North Yorkshire and York Primary Care Trust, helped produce a report which suggested that CBT could have long-term benefits but was not a “quick cure” for Mr Charlesworth.

The Coroner Geoff Fell said Mr Coates had not met Mr Charlesworth and said his conclusions amounted to “speculation and conjecture”.

He said he would be writing to the chief executive of the primary care trust with his concerns about Mr Charlesworth’s case.

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