News & Views

Dismissal of head teacher for non-disclosure of relationship with sex offender was fair

PD
BY Paul Deans
Employment law
BG Purple

A head teacher with 24 years’ experience was fairly dismissed by her employer for failing to disclose her relationship with a sex offender, according to the Court of Appeal. The panel of four judges ruled by majority, with one judge dissenting.

While she had given the issue consideration by seeking advice from a police officer, a probation officer, the CRB and governors of other schools, she had failed in her safeguarding responsibilities by deciding not to disclose her relationship with the offender and his conviction to the school. Given her position, she should have realised that it was relevant information which she should have provided to the school so that it and the governing body could decide for themselves what steps to take in light of the information.

The Court found that dismissal in these circumstances was not inevitable, but it refused to interfere with the decision of the school. The dismissal was specifically for her failure to disclose the information and for her failure to admit that she had made an error of judgment. The school’s decision therefore fell within the band of reasonable responses.

The case brings into sharp focus the difficult balancing act for schools tasked with child safeguarding issues. However, it also highlights what the dissenting judge, Elias J, described as the concern that "we are living in a dangerous world if mere association with a sex offender warrants [the] conclusion" that there is an enhanced risk to children in circumstances such as this”.

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