Victory for man who blew whistle on his deputy head

28th January 2005 at 00:00
A teacher who reported his deputy head for smoking in the classroom has successfully appealed against unfair dismissal.

Christopher Lewis is the second teacher in a fortnight to have had a claim of wrongdoing against John Beddoes comprehensive, in Powys, upheld in an employment tribunal.

An appeal panel this week concluded that the initial employment tribunal, held last February, should not have supported the school's decision to dismiss Mr Lewis. The appeal judge said the original hearing had gone badly wrong and recommended that the case be reconvened before a Cardiff tribunal.

Mr Lewis, 51, must wait to see whether the school offers him his job back, before deciding whether or not to pursue the case. "I have not won," he said. "I'm three years into this process, and it will be many months before I have a new hearing. I just want my job back."

Mr Lewis, who taught geography and history, reported the deputy head for smoking in classrooms and, when the head did nothing to remedy the situation, reported it to the governing body. He was subsequently sacked in August 2002. "If there was something pupils felt unhappy about, they would come to me," he said. "Pupils choose the person they feel most comfortable with. My tutor group told me they didn't want to work in a cigarette-smoking environment."

He had also claimed that pupils were endangered by a locked fire door and complained that history lessons were badly taught and poorly resourced.

Shortly afterwards, he was made redundant.

Mr Lewis is now working as a geography teacher in England. But, last autumn, he again reported the John Beddoes deputy for smoking, after parents and staff complained to him.

Nonetheless, he hopes to return to John Beddoes, should the reconvened tribunal uphold his case. "The head has gone, and many of the staff have retired or moved on," he said. "The chair of governors is also considering going. So in many ways it would be like starting at a new school.

"There is a bullying culture in Powys. People are abusing their powers of authority to do what is right for their cosy little group. But certain things are against the law. Someone has to be prepared to take issues forward."

Jenni Watson, national secretary of Redress, the organisation representing Mr Lewis, said: "He made himself the voice of the children. If they had gripes, he would take them up. He championed things and made waves. And so he was targeted."

Mr Lewis is not the only teacher to be in dispute with the school. Last week, Iwan Rees, 48, who taught Welsh, was awarded pound;22,000 compensation for unfair dismissal by a Cardiff tribunal. Mr Rees was fired after two girls accused him of touching and trying to kiss them, despite police concluding that there were no grounds for prosecution.

Contact Redress on 01405 764432

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