Union sues over sacked head

12th April 1996 at 01:00
The first comprehensive school south of the border to opt out of local authority control is being sued after failing to pay thousands of pounds in compensation to a former headteacher 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.

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

The National Assocation of Headteachers, Mr Hampson's union, has served a writ on the school's governing body and David Vickery, its chairman, demanding immediate payment plus Pounds 161 in interest and costs. The writ states that the governors "have refused or neglected" to pay.

Mr Hampson, a JP, was a well-known figure in the GM movement. 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 chairman of 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 wrongdoing on the part of Mr Hampson. He described the governors' behaviour as "disgraceful".

Sir Robert called for more independent members to be appointed to governing body appeal panels to ensure impartiality, a point he made 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," Sir Robert said. "The non-payment of the Pounds 17,500 agreed in court is a disgrace. I am concerned that appeal committees in grant-maintained 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," Mr Vickery 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 agency said there is no automatic entitlement to extra money.

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