Great expectations were dashed

13th February 1998 at 00:00
Stanford Myer-O'Reilly had only been head of Charles Dickens Junior School for four months when he was summoned to a meeting with the school's chair of governors and an LEA officer to hear complaints about his management style.

Some of these complaints, which Mr Myer-O'Reilly heard for the first time, related to morale at this Portsmouth school where four of the 10 staff had just resigned, three to take up more senior posts elsewhere.

Mr Myer-O'Reilly claims that the LEA officer also spoke disapprovingly about his recent marriage to one of the school's special needs assistants. Similar concerns were raised at later meetings, and eventually Mr Myer-O'Reilly was asked not to come into the school until complaints had been investigated.

In January 1997, he attended another meeting with an officer from Hampshire County Council's education department, which seems to have taken over responsibility for staff discipline from the school's governors.

The officer suggested that Mr Myer-O'Reilly should resign and apply - with LEA support - for deputy headships elsewhere. After rejecting this, he was formally suspended from his job. Almost five months later he received a letter from another LEA officer, calling him to a hearing before a panel of the school's governors.

This letter accused Mr Myer-O'Reilly of dealing with the issue of his marriage "in an unprofessional way within the school". It also listed complaints about Mr Myer-O'Reilly's performance - for example, that he had failed to support some staff in dealing with problems relating to children, and had acted "in an aggressive manner towards certain staff".

Instead of advising governors to start proceedings under Hampshire's model competence procedure for headteachers, which aims to help them improve their performance, the officer said the allegations against Mr Myer-O'Reilly amounted to gross misconduct. If proved to be true they would lead to his summary dismissal.

The officer did not explain why, if Mr Myer-O'Reilly was guilty of gross misconduct, the LEA had been prepared to give him references to enable him to apply for deputy headships. Mr Myer-O'Reilly refused to attend the hearing after receiving advice that the governors' panel had not been properly constituted. In July he resigned.

But the story does not end there. Although Mr Myer-O'Reilly is no longer employed at Charles Dickens school, Portsmouth City Council, which became its LEA following local authority reorganisation, has now invited him to come back and go through a disciplinary process. But the council would not guarantee that he would get his job back, if the allegations against him turn out to be false. Mr Myer-O'Reilly was not prepared to go through the disciplinary process on these terms and now plans to bring a claim for constructive dismissal.

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