Award-winning head suspended for six months 'without reason'

30th October 2009 at 00:00
Former teaching union boss fights case of 'gross injustice' as school leader removed after mystery claim

An award-winning headteacher has been suspended for six months without being told why, in the "most bizarre" case of its kind, according to a former union leader who is now representing him.

Jonathan Dennison, head of Silloth Primary School in Cumbria, was escorted off the school premises in May following allegations made by parents.

Sir David Hart, who was general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) for 27 years, said he was "incredulous" at Mr Dennison's treatment and has called on the local authority to "put up or shut up".

"Mr Dennison is the victim of a gross injustice in that after nearly six months he is still waiting to hear the details of the claims made against him," said Sir David.

"He is fully entitled to have the nature of the allegations made against him spelt out but has been treated appallingly by all concerned.

"He's very unwell and under the care of his GP, and his family is also very distressed."

The case comes as the Association of Teachers and Lecturers released research this week claiming that a quarter of teachers have been the victim of false allegations.

In addition, half of school staff who responded to the survey reported that they or a colleague had faced a false allegation in their school by a pupil or a member of a pupil's family.

Mr Dennison, who has been the headteacher at the school since 2003 and is the NAHT's county secretary, previously won an award in the North East and Cumbria Teaching Awards while the head of Longtown Junior School.

Cumbria County Council said Mr Dennison's suspension was a "neutral" act to allow for a "full and unbiased investigation".

"We would never comment on an ongoing investigation until a conclusion is reached," a spokesman said. "To do so would be unfair to all parties concerned and potentially prejudicial."

Julie Anderson, chair of governors at Silloth, wrote to parents this week to inform them that the acting head, Emma Sharp, an education consultant appointed on the recommendation of the county council, would remain in the post until Easter.

Mrs Anderson thanked staff and parents for their patience but added it was "still not possible to give a definitive date" by which the investigation would be completed.

"The governors and the local authority will continue to review the situation to ensure leadership of the school remains secure after Easter, depending on the circumstances of the investigation," she said.

Sir David, a qualified solicitor who lives in Cumbria, claims the council has broken the terms of Mr Dennison's employment in eight places. He is seeking advice on whether Mr Dennison has grounds to launch a legal action against the council and the school's governors.

"There is no excuse for the county council's behaviour," he said. "I am writing to them this week to demand they produce full details of any allegations made against Mr Dennison."

"It has a legal duty to ensure he has access to high-quality counselling throughout this ordeal, but it has just cut him adrift."

News, page 10.

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