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Governors challenge #163;300k payout

A teacher awarded almost #163;300,000 after she was left feeling "suicidal" because of the way she was treated at work is facing a legal bid by her former school's governors to reduce her payout.

Gemma Blundell worked for 15 years at St Andrew's Catholic Primary School in Streatham, south London, before she was sacked in 2007 after a history of strained relations with the head, London's Appeal Court heard.

An employment tribunal cleared headteacher Denise Assid of bullying or harassing Ms Blundell, but it found that the head's "assessment of her abilities was unjust" and she had been "deliberately fault finding".

The tribunal also found that the "real reason" for Ms Blundell's dismissal was her decision to take legal action against the school, Lord Justice Elias told the court.

Ms Blundell was awarded almost #163;300,000 compensation after she said her treatment had worsened her arthritic psoriasis and depression to such an extent that she "sometimes felt suicidal".

She said she had lost all enthusiasm and energy to teach again and that she "effectively lived in a bubble" for two years, able only to socialise with close family and friends.

Last week, the school's governors challenged the size of Ms Blundell's payout and had their appeal upheld.

The court ordered a reconsideration of the case by the employment tribunal in the light of fresh evidence on the issue of whether Ms Blundell was studying for an MA at Kingston University in the academic year 200708.

The governors say the issue is "potentially highly significant", although all their other grounds of appeal were dismissed by the court.

#163;10k BILL

GROUNDSMEN SUSTAINED 'AWFUL INJURIES' FROM ELECTRIC PYLON BURNS

A prestigious public school has been ordered to pay more than #163;10,000 after three of its groundsmen were injured while erecting a rugby goal post which came in contact with 33,000-volt overhead powerlines.

The King's School in Ely, Cambridgeshire (pictured), was fined #163;6,000 and ordered to pay #163;4,274 in costs earlier this month, at a hearing at Ely magistrates' court.

Following the incident in September 2009, one man had to have skin grafts as a result of his injuries while two others suffered burns.

Speaking at the court hearing, Health and Safety Executive inspector Stephen Faulkner said: "Three men suffered some awful injuries that could have easily been avoided if the King's School had better management of health and safety in place to protect their workforce ... Employers must carry out sufficient risk assessments before such work is carried out and provide supervision and relevant training to ensure the safety of their staff and contractors."

The King's School pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Electricity at Work Regulations 1989.

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