Disabled teacher sues to get job back

31st May 1996 at 01:00
A disabled teacher wrongfully dismissed by the London borough of Southwark is going to court in a bid for reinstatement.

Art teacher John Cornelius, 46, who has spina bifida, was sacked from Walworth school, Bermondsey, in March 1995 after head Brinley Morgan accused him of gross misconduct.

Earlier this month, an industrial tribunal ruled that Mr Cornelius had been unfairly and wrongfully dismissed on the grounds that Southwark failed to follow procedures laid down in the 1988 Education Reform Act. Southwark, which has admitted the errors, agreed to give Mr Cornelius more than Pounds 6, 000 in back pay.

Now, however, Mr Cornelius is taking his case to county court in an attempt to prove he was unlawfully as well as unfairly dismissed.

"This would prove the actual dismissal was null and void, and therefore I should be reinstated and receive 14 months' back pay. This could open the floodgates for other people to sue for unlawful dismissal," said Mr Cornelius.

He strongly denies allegations of gross misconduct, and believes he is the victim of cost-cutting.

"When local management came in, Walworth instantly had a massive budget crisis and wanted to get rid of mature, experienced teachers in favour of young, cheaper ones. Prior to being accused of incompetence, I was promoted," he added.

Southwark spokesman John Harrison said that the council conceded there had been a breach of contract and because of this, Mr Cornelius had been unfairly dismissed. However, the substance of the disciplinary charges against him still stood.

"Mr Cornelius is claiming he is still technically employed by us, but we utterly refute this and believe the county court will take the view that the matter is already within the jurisdiction of the industrial tribunal," he said.

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