In case of litigation - know thine enemy

27th June 2008 at 01:00
Fellow heads and deputes should be made aware of the horrendous time I, and the school, have had over the past six months when a disabled teacher on our staff took me first to the education authority and then to an employment tribunal, claiming that I had discriminated against her on the grounds of her disability
Fellow heads and deputes should be made aware of the horrendous time I, and the school, have had over the past six months when a disabled teacher on our staff took me first to the education authority and then to an employment tribunal, claiming that I had discriminated against her on the grounds of her disability.

In fact, it was an issue of competence and the case was eventually dropped half-way through because there was no evidence to support the teacher's claims. However, I was taken all the way and cannot begin to explain how bad it all was.

The only support I got throughout, other than family and close colleagues, was from the Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS). They were there for me when I needed advice, a shoulder to cry on and, of course, to pay my legal fees. These have amounted to about pound;15,000, and would have been more than pound;25,000 if the case wasn't dropped before hearing our defence.

I am also a member of the Educational Institute of Scotland, but they would not support me because the issue was with a teacher. The authority wouldn't support me because the case was taken out against the authority (which they did defend) but also against me as an individual, which they said was for me to defend and that I needed to get my own solicitor.

Given what I have been through, I urge colleagues likely to be in my position to take time to protect themselves from the growing potential of litigation. In these situations we, as heads and deputes, have absolutely no rights and are personally and professionally laid bare in public. The only body there to support you is your union.

Franca Reid, Lonforgan Primary, Perth and Kinross.

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