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Head wins right to job share

Governors were guilty of discrimination in refusing to allow a teacher to return part-time after maternity leave. Mark Oliver reports.

A PRIMARY headteacher who was not allowed to return to work part-time after maternity leave was a victim of sexual discrimination, an employment tribunal has found.

Rebekah Marshall, 44, will now return to Langtree community school, Torrington, Exeter, as a job-sharing head. Her union, the National Association of Head Teachers, believes it is the first case of its kind.

Devon education authority and the school's governors were both found to be guilty of unlawful discrimination in refusing to allow her to continue her career.

Mrs Marshall, who has three older children, gave birth last December. She had been head of the school for five years.

She said: "I am pleased and relieved by the decision and I am looking forward to returning to the school as soon as possible."

Kerry George, assistant secretary of the NAHT, who acted on Mrs Marshal's behalf, said: "Our member asked for a job-share on her return from maternity leave last January. However, the governing body refused it."

The governors said the decision was made on the council's advice as the school had been found by the Office for Standards in Education to have serious weaknesses.

A spokesman for the governors said they were "looking for clear, unambiguous leadership by a single postholder in order to remove the causes of the serious weaknesses".

There was, however, no suggestion they were unhappy with Mrs Marshall's performance at the 80-place primary.

But Ms George said: "For the first time, an employment

tribunal has decided that a requirement for heads to work full-time can be unlawful discrimination.

"For the future, this means that women headteachers will not have to make the choice between family life and their careers, as many now do."

The governors and council have 28 days to agree terms with Mrs Marshall over her return.

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