Teacher wins £140,000 after being unfairly sacked from Tunbridge Wells prep school

Teacher wins £140,000 after being unfairly sacked from Tunbridge Wells prep school
Rose Hill School

Sue Allington, 60, had worked for almost two decades at the £24,000-a-year Rose Hill School in Consiston Avenue.

Allington, who taught Year Two pupils twice a week, only had A-level qualifications rather than a degree but was considered to be ‘excellent’ and ‘the best person for the job’.

She had worked as a teacher at the school for nearly 20 years.

But a Tribunal was told last week that she was dismissed after new Head Teacher Emma Neville became concerned about the ‘fierce competition’ that the school was facing from other institutions.

Ms Neville faced pressure to improve the school’s financial position because of ‘ever-increasing levels of parental expectation’, the hearing was told.

After three parents expressed concerns to the Head over Allington’s lack of formal teacher training, the hearing heard how Neville then decided that it was ‘essential’ for all teachers at the school to have level 6 national vocational qualifications or their equivalent.

The parents, named only as Mrs P and Mr and Mrs M, raised the issue of Allington’s lack of qualifications, despite having never expressed concerns over her teaching and sending her ‘thank you’ notes.

In its ruling, the Tribunal said that as a result of the complaints, Neville ‘formed the view that it was essential that, going forward, in order to improve pupil retention and admission rates, the [school’s] strategy would be that all of its teaching staff . . . must be qualified teachers’.

The Tribunal added that when Neville was appointed, the school ‘was operating in a difficult economic climate and was struggling to attract new pupils and retain existing pupils’.

It went on: ‘A large part of [Neville’s] remit as the new Head Teacher was to explore new ways in which the [school] could improve its pupil admission and retention rates. There are a number of other independent prep schools nearby . . . and, in light of this, the competition for pupils is fierce.’

The Tribunal heard that Allington resisted the Head’s edict to study for an undergraduate teaching qualification or face a demotion to the status of teaching assistant.

Demotion would have resulted in her pay being slashed by 38 per cent from £30,723 to £19,095.

The Head claimed that government rules suggested only qualified teachers could teach but the Tribunal ruled “there was no government directive applicable . . . that required schools to employ only qualified teachers”.

Ruling that Allington had been unfairly dismissed and discriminated against on the grounds of age, Judge Ian Truscott, QC, sitting at the London South Employment Tribunal, said she could not be expected to tackle an undergraduate course at her age because she planned to retire at 65.

The Tribunal awarded Allington £141,334.

The Judge said: “There is no obligation on the school for teachers to have qualified teacher status or equivalent.

“The school did not show that it had undertaken even the basic research to conclude that having all qualified teachers would maintain a competitive edge or that it would meet ever-increasing parental expectation.”

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