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Primary teacher sacked for calling ‘vulnerable’ boy by girl’s name

Primary teacher sacked for calling ‘vulnerable’ boy by girl’s name
A tribunal has heard that a primary school teaching assistant was sacked after giving a boy, a girls’ name during a PE class.

John Brelsford split his PE class up by gender to play a game, but there weren’t enough girls to create equal teams so some of the boys had to switch sides. The hearing was told Mr Brelsford then started calling the boys who were playing on the girls’ side by female names, leaving one “vulnerable” pupil, who had attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, “humiliated” and “crying”. After he got upset the teaching assistant called him a “baby” in front of the class.

Mr Brelsford was sacked following the incident, as he had already been warned following complaints about his behaviour from parents and staff. Mr Brelsford claimed he was sacked owing to a “vendetta” against him, but the tribunal threw out his claim of unfair dismissal ruling he could have been sacked “much sooner than he was”. The tribunal heard he had previously called pupils “stupid” and “pathetic”, “screamed” and “shouted” at them, and also googled “Gingerphobia” – resulting in a child with red hair being teased by their classmates.

Mr Brelsford worked at St Wilfrid’s Primary School, a Catholic voluntary-aided academy in Sheffield, South Yorks. In February 2017, the headteacher Andrew Truby met with Mr Brelsford after several parents expressed concern during a parents’ evening about what the teaching assistant had said to children in class. The final incident which led to Mr Brelsford being sacked came in Oct 2020. Delia Evans, the then headteacher, said: “I am concerned that John doesn’t see that his conduct is unprofessional and what he is doing wrong, despite previous training and warnings.” Ms Evans recommended that the case should be considered further at a formal disciplinary hearing, which was held in Jan 2021, when Mr Brelsford claimed that the reason he had been investigated on 11 different occasions was that there was a “conspiracy to remove him”. He was sacked the following day.

Employment Judge Chris McAvoy-Newns rejected the claim of unfair dismissal and added: “I find that [Mr Brelsford] was dismissed for conduct and not because Mr Truby or Mrs Evans held a personal vendetta towards him. Although there are some suggestions that Mr Truby was losing patience with him a long time before January 2021, had there been such a vendetta, I find that it is likely that they would have escalated the dismissal process much more quickly than they did.”

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