Berkshire

Judges allow Reading school head teacher's appeal

A former head teacher who says she was the victim of "racist bullying" has won a Court of Appeal ruling she hopes could help her bid for compensation.

Sudhana Singh is claiming constructive dismissal over her treatment at Reading Borough Council-maintained Moorlands Primary in Tilehurst.

She says the council "forced" school business manager Sue Heath to provide a statement "riddled with lies".

Employment and appeal tribunals had ruled the claim should not be allowed.

Now three appeal judges have allowed Mrs Singh, 45, to appeal.

'Autocratic style'

Lord Justice Lewison said both tribunals had been wrong and there was "no immunity behind which the council can shelter".

The judge said Ms Singh ran into "serious difficulties" in her first year as head teacher in her relationships with parents, staff and governors.

He said she was accusing governors of endorsing a campaign of "discrimination, bullying, harassment and victimisation" against her as an Asian head teacher.

She was also accusing the council of "deliberately and unlawfully" endorsing the campaign to remove her from her post.

He added: "The council denies these allegations. It says that the serious breakdown in relationships was due to Ms Singh's autocratic style of leadership and her poor communication skills."

'Open the floodgates'

The council appointed an independent investigator after about 170 parents signed a petition expressing "no confidence" in Ms Singh near the end of her first year as head in June 2010.

She took voluntary paid leave pending the outcome of a review.

Ms Singh later complained that a draft report identifying serious problems relating to her management style and interpersonal skills was unfair because she had been on leave and unable to refute the findings until handed the evidence.

She lodged a formal grievance which was rejected by an external consultant. She then took her discrimination claim against the council and school governors to the employment tribunal.

Ms Singh wrote a letter in February saying she was resigning from her post with effect from July 17 2012 because she had "effectively been dismissed".

Lord Justice Lewison said Robin Allen QC, representing the council, argued that allowing the appeal would "potentially open the floodgates to a torrent of satellite litigation" in tribunal claims.

But he said: "I would not be deterred by the floodgates argument from applying what I conceive to be the law."

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