Education Law Solicitors

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School used Squash Courts to hide unruly pupils from Ofsted

A tribunal has heard that a school hid its rowdier pupils in squash courts to keep them out of sight during an Ofsted inspection.

A former teacher at Berwick Academy, Ged Thomas, revealed the arrangement as part of his unfair dismissal claim against the secondary school. An employment tribunal decided in favour of Mr Thomas and ruled that the maths teacher was wrongfully dismissed following the school’s “deeply flawed” internal disciplinary investigation.

The 44-page judgment said: “He [Mr Thomas] received text messages from a colleague and parents saying certain pupils, who were known for misbehaving, had been removed from lessons to the squash courts out of sight of the inspection team. Hiding children from Ofsted inspectors would almost certainly amount to concealment of information which tends to show relevant failures. That for him was the last straw. He formally raised his concerns to Ofsted through their online schoolteachers portal, whilst sitting in his car. These clearly were protected disclosures. He later received requests for further information from Ofsted and the DfE.”

The academy had claimed that the “sole reason” for Mr Thomas’ dismissal was his social media posts about the school, which it said were derogatory or offensive. But the panel said the school’s codes of conduct on social media use and whistle-blowing was “so complex it was inevitable there would be disagreement on whether they were complied with fully” and concluded that making the negative social media comments had not been an “indication of any disloyalty”.

In conclusion, employment judge Tudor Garnon stated: “The respondent has not proved on the balance of probabilities the claimant was guilty of gross misconduct because any breach of lawful and reasonable instructions was not an indication of his disloyalty to, or wish to harm, the academy as such.”

Judge Garnon upheld Mr Thomas’ claims for unfair dismissal, wrongful dismissal, compensation for untaken annual leave, and breach of contract relating to missing property, though claims over unlawful deductions of wages were dismissed.

Compensation is expected to be determined at a later hearing.

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