Union sues governors over head's dismissal

12th April 1996 at 01:00
Nicholas Pyke reports on the dispute about a school's delay in compensating its sacked head

The National Assocation of Headteachers is suing the first comprehensive to opt out of local authority control for failing to pay thousands of pounds compensation to a former head who was controversially sacked.

Christopher Hampson withdrew charges of wrongful and unfair dismissal after St James's grant-maintained school in Bolton agreed to give him Pounds 17, 500 compensation at an industrial tribunal in January.

But the school has so far failed to pay up and Mr Hampson, who received an OBE for services to education, says he has to live off Pounds 58-a-week unemployment and sickness benefit.

Now Mr Hampson's union, the NAHT, has served a writ on the school governing body and its chairman, David Vickery, demanding immediate payment plus Pounds 161 interest and costs. It says the governors "have refused or neglected" to pay.

Mr Hampson, a JP, was a well-known figure in the GM movement. His school St James's opted out after Bolton education authority threatened to close it.

At the time of his dismissal he was defended by Sir Robert Balchin, a member of the Funding Agency for Schools, and chair of both the GM Schools Foundation and the GM Schools Centre. Sir Robert described the case as "very worrying" and said there had been little or no evidence to suggest wrong doing on the part of Mr Hampson. He described the governors' behaviour as "disgraceful".

He called for more independent members on governing body appeal panels to ensure impartiality, a point he made formally to Lord Nolan's inquiry into standards in public life.

"A grave injustice has been done to Christopher Hampson who has saved his school from extinction," said Sir Robert. "The non-payment of the Pounds 17,500 agreed in court is a disgrace.

"I am concerned that appeal committees in GM schools should be bolstered by the addition of one or two outsiders and I am pressing for a change in the regulations."

David Vickery, chairman of the governors at St James's, described the writ as "ludicrous". He said that the court agreement did not specify a date for payment and that the school, which has been in deficit, is still looking for the money.

"There must have been other ways of dealing with this," he said. "I regard the writ as a deliberate attempt to publicise the case even further. Quite clearly Mr Hampson's publicity machine is still working."

He promised to pay the Pounds 17,500 but refused to commit the school to paying any interest or costs. St James's, he said, will be applying to the Funding Agency for Schools for financial help with the award.

A spokesman for the FAS said there is no automatic entitlement to extra money.

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