Disabled teacher wrongly dismissed

19th January 2001 at 00:00
A teacher who lost her job after an accident on a school trip left her disabled has been awarded damages of pound;25,000.

Margaret Gordon, aged 57, a learning support teacher at Woodlands School in Newton Stewart, which educates children with emotional and behavioural problems, slipped and seriously injured her leg in a youth hostel shower in England while on a school trip to France.

Mrs Gordon wanted to return to work part-time several months later but the school bursar was concerned that she could only walk with the help of a stick. It would attract the attention of the children if she was provided with a "minder" and the children would "target" her. She was dismissed without notice.

Nigel Aldworth, the bursar, told an employment tribunal in Stranraer that pupils, most aged about 15, could be violent and unpredictable and had been excluded from mainstream school because of their behaviour. Staff had to be strong pysically and in terms of their personality.

He said that hardly a week went by without an incident between pupils, and staff had been assaulted. In his opinion, Mrs Gordon could no longer hold down her job, although he considered her departure a loss.

Woodlands had also faced financial problems because of a fall in numbers following a police investigation into allegations made by former pupils.

Mrs Gordon said she was distressed at the loss of her job, and suffered post-traumatic stress after her dismissal. She now received incapacity benefit of pound;67 a week.

The tribunal found the school's evidence about the levelof violence exaggerated. Mrs Gordon was entitled to be distressed by the manner of her dismissal, which had been because of her disability. It awarded her pound;22,389 compensation for two years' loss of earnings, including pound;4,000 for injury to her feelings, and a further pound;2,811 in interest.

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