'Anxious' teacher 'set self alight'

A Harrogate science teacher died after setting himself alight in the school car park

A Harrogate science teacher died after setting himself alight in the school car park

First published in National News © by

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

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 Harrogate in May last year.

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

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

The school's head Patricia Hunter told the hearing, sitting at the magistrates' court, how Mr Charlesworth had "very high standards". She described him as a "fantastic" teacher and said he wrongly thought some of the coursework marks would be poor.

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."

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.

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.

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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