Essex

'Bully claim' Essex dinner lady was unfairly sacked

The sacking of an Essex dinner lady after she told a couple their child had been bullied was procedurally unfair, a tribunal has ruled.

Carol Hill, 61, was suspended from her £125-a-month role at Great Tey Primary School after speaking to the girl's parents in June 2009.

She told them their seven-year-old daughter had been tied to a fence.

Essex County Council has questioned the finding, saying the ruling also voiced concerns about Mrs Hill's actions.

Mrs Hill was sacked in September 2009 after speaking to the media about the case.

'Personal gain'

After the tribunal ruling she said: "This is the best new year news I could have.

"I am delighted and very relieved that the tribunal found that I was unfairly dismissed.

"I have always had the welfare of the children in my care at heart and I still miss working at the school."

A spokeswoman for Essex County Council said: "On a number of critical points the employment tribunal ruling has found against Mrs Hill including that she was not acting in good faith when speaking to the press and did so for the purpose of personal gain.

"The council and school will now be considering all the options before making any further decisions or announcements."

While the procedure was said to be unfair, the council stressed that the "tribunal makes it clear there is need for further representation from both counsels to decide this point".

The tribunal said a two-day remedy hearing would start on 2 February to decide whether Mrs Hill should get her job back or receive compensation.

Newspaper interview

Mrs Hill had argued in the tribunal that she was sacked because the school governors were "embarrassed by the public outcry" after she told reporters about her suspension.

She said she was not given a correct notice period and her rights to freedom of expression under European law were infringed.

The school's head teacher Deborah Crabb denied that the girl had been bullied but confirmed that she had been found tied to a fence with a skipping rope.

She said the girl had been playing a game called "prisoners and guards" which had gone "too far" and she had dealt with four boys who had been involved.

She said the girl "skipped off" after having a compress applied to her wrist and seemed happy.

The tribunal heard she had sent a letter to the girl's parents, saying: "You may wish to know (the girl) had a minor accident today. She was hurt on the right leg and right wrist with a skipping rope."

But Mrs Hill then gave more detail to the girl's mother at a scout meeting outside school, followed by a written statement to the girl's family - which was passed on to the police, the tribunal heard. She then called a local newspaper to tell of her suspension.

Mrs Crabb said she had recommended the school's governors dismiss Mrs Hill for "gross misconduct" because she had spoken outside school about an incident involving a pupil.

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