Northumberland teacher awarded £50,000 after winning unfair dismissal case
A teacher who turned whistleblower about his failing school and won an unfair dismissal case has been awarded £50,000.
Ged Thomas contacted education watchdog Ofsted to make protected disclosures about disputed claims that “misbehaving” children were hidden on squash courts during a full inspection at Berwick Academy.
The PE and maths teacher also outlined concerns about the school on social media and was sacked for gross misconduct later the same year at a disciplinary hearing before losing his appeal.
Earlier this year an employment tribunal decided that Mr Thomas was unfairly and wrongly dismissed after concluding that the initial investigation was “deeply flawed on many grounds” and that “any breach of lawful and reasonable instructions" in making the Facebook posts “was not an indication of his disloyalty”.
The 44-page judgement detailed how Mr Thomas, who had previously spoken publicly about his concerns for the academy, was contacted while on sick leave in January 2018 about the first day of a full Ofsted inspection at the academy.
The judgement stated: "He received text messages from a colleague and parents saying certain pupils, who were known for misbehaving, had been removed from lessons to the squash courts out of sight of the inspection team.
"Hiding children from Ofsted inspectors would almost certainly amount to concealment of information which tends to show relevant failures.
"That for him was the last straw. He formally raised his concerns to Ofsted.”
Headteacher Alexis Widdowson left the school before the published report labelled the academy as “inadequate” and before the start of the disciplinary process against Mr Thomas later the same year after he commented about her departure on Facebook.
The academy insisted at the 2020 tribunal that the social media posts, which it judged as derogatory or offensive, were “the sole reason for dismissal” as they were not protected disclosures.
Judge Garnon upheld claims for wrongful dismissal, unfair dismissal, compensation for untaken annual leave and breach of contract relating to missing property. Claims over unlawful deductions of wages were dismissed.
Awarding compensation last month, he said: “The claimant is entitled to damages equal to the pay and benefits he would have received in the Notice Period.”
He was awarded £4,002 for breach of contract, £42,827 for unfair dismissal and a further £3,293 for untaken annual leave.