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'Miss Knickers' deputy clears his name

A deputy head sacked after calling a teacher "Miss Knickers" has won a Pounds 43,000 payout after a tribunal ruled he was unfairly dismissed.

John Hacking had a 30-year unblemished teaching career before being sacked from Lammack primary school in Blackburn in July 2003.

The 53-year-old told the Manchester tribunal that he and the female teachers had often teased each other, and that they played tricks on him and called him "Old Man Lacking".

Infants teacher Holly Vickers accused him of calling her "Miss Knickers", while her colleague Sarah Milward claimed that he had called her "Wayward".

A Muslim teacher accused him of racism after he suggested bringing some beers round to celebrate her moving house.

Mr Hacking said: "Justice in a sense has been done ... but the money in no way compensates for what I've been through."

He is now working as a primary supply teacher and believes that even the tribunal's ruling will not revive his previous career. He said his experience had been traumatic for his two daughters, aged 27 and 25, whom he brought up single-handedly, and for his elderly parents.

Mr Hacking said: "I was deputy at one of the largest primary schools in Lancashire. My daughters had left home, and I thought that, for the first time, I could think about myself. And then, whoosh, this happens.

"Now my career is dead in the water. There is no way I can build it up again at my age."

Mr Hacking was suspended for 22 months before being sacked. He said: "Even my friends said you're not suspended for that length of time unless you've done something serious."

He said staff at the school had often teased each other and as evidence he presented a birthday card to the tribunal which Ms Milward had signed "Wayward".

"Holly Vickers had never said she objected to the nickname Knickers," he said. "I'd stopped 18 months before I was suspended. But they were still calling me nicknames. I thought these were good friends of mine. People who I trusted were willing to speak out against me. That is one of the most upsetting things about the case."

Mr Hacking blames a personality clash with Mary Lewis, who was appointed head of Lammack shortly before he was suspended in September 2001. "The governors and the local authority all listen to the head," he said.

Staff from Lammack primary were unwilling to comment on the case. But Ian Kendrick, deputy director of education for Blackburn council, said:

"Following any investigation, it is normal practice to look at lessons that can be learned. We will look particularly carefully at the detail of the tribunal findings, to reflect on what we need to learn from this case."

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