Deputy head wins pound;29,000 after row with headteacher

1st June 2001 at 01:00
THE DEPUTY head of a boys' public school who quit after a dressing down from the head has been awarded pound;29,000 at an industrial tribunal.

Jenny Wilson, who earned pound;27,000 a year, was awarded pound;29,000 plus a pound;15,000 for pension and benefits.

But the 55-year-old who had taught at the school for 22 years said: "What is compensation - I have lost everything I have been working for, including my home. I have to start all over again."

Mrs Wilson resigned after she was told off by head Robert Higgins. She was on lunchtime duty in November last year when three boys told her Mr Higgins had given them permission to play chess in the classroom. The boys had been misbehaving so she told them to play in the playground.

Mrs Wilson said: "The boys went to tell Mr Higgins who said I had undermined his authority. The kids told him I had thrown them out of the classroom and threatened them with a hundred lines. He took their word against mine. I felt like I was back in my childhood being told off. I had that real fear you have as a child. I was shaking and couldn't talk and left the office in tears."

Mrs Wilson was signed off sick for a month with anxiety and wasprescribed tranquillizers by the doctor.

Too upset to return to work, she handed in her notice. Unable to keep up mortgage payments on her house, she had to sell up and move in with her daughter.

The tribunal held in Croydon charged the school with constructive dismissal. It found Mr Higgins had made no effort to contact her for three weeks after she quit. When he did get in contact he did not attempt to negotiate and merely thanked her for her resignation. Mrs Wilson said: "I feel very emotional about the outcome of the tribunal. I was elated last night and couldn't sleep as I kept going over what had happened in my mind."

Mrs Wilson is now unsure what to do with her life. She has five years left before she retires but has lost her confidence in teaching. She said: "I have got a lot of self-worth to build up. I have done some supply work and it actually terrifies me to step in front of a class now."

Former head of the school, Barry Newcombe gave evidence at the tribunal and has supported her in her fight. He said: "I was head of the school for nearly 17 years and during that time I thought she was an excellent teacher."

Sue Learner

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