London

James Walker dismissal at Henry Fawcett School ruled unfair

A head teacher from south London who claimed he was forced out of his job has won a case for unfair dismissal.

James Walker was sacked from Henry Fawcett Primary School in Kennington over claims of bullying and after raising concerns about its budget.

Lambeth Council was determined to remove him, the South London Employment Tribunal heard.

The council said it was "disappointed" but "pleased" the school's "serious financial issues" were acknowledged.

It would be "looking carefully" at "what lessons need to be learned", the authority added.

'Fishing exercise'

Mr Walker said he was twice praised for his leadership by Ofsted inspectors and for turning around what had been a struggling school.

However, he was suspended in 2008, shortly after returning to work from six months of chemotherapy following a diagnosis of cancer.

This "was a complete surprise and shock" which left him "devastated", he added.

On ruling his dismissal as unfair, the tribunal criticised Lambeth's internal investigation, saying this "amounted to a fishing exercise which focused on obtaining the most damaging information about the claimant".

'Unrelated to illness'

In a statement, the council said: "The education of pupils has always been our overriding priority, and when allegations of bullying, financial mismanagement and other performance issues are brought to our attention, we must respond immediately."

Lambeth said the action taken against Mr Walker was "completely unrelated to his illness", and noted his complaints of disability discrimination and victimisation had been dismissed.

"The tribunal acknowledged that the council took proper account of Mr Walker's condition while he was employed," the statement continued.

"We are pleased that the school is no longer judged as failing and has been removed from special measures."

But Mr Walker said it was "a disgrace that Lambeth has used public funds to push me out of my job, and I hope the actions of those responsible for this waste will be thoroughly investigated".

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