Unfair treatment of brave whistle-blower
Published 24 November 2021
It took courage for teaching assistant Claudia to report a colleague for mistreating children - and after doing so she did not expect to be the one fighting to save her job.
Claudia reported that an experienced female teacher was verbally abusive and insulting to children, and punishing them harshly for misbehaving.
She raised her concerns through official channels at the primary school where she worked. Claudia should have been considered a whistle- blower.
School leadership was dismissive of the concerns, said it had fully investigated them and found nothing wrong.
Claudia, who had worked at the school for about five years, was dubbed a ‘grass’ and a ‘snake’ by some colleagues. She was ignored and felt excluded at times and the treatment reduced her to tears on occasions.
Determined to help pupils learn and develop, dedicated Claudia ignored how she was treated in ordered to do the best job she could.
That changed when in general conversation a parent mentioned to Claudia concerns about the treatment of her son.
The mother said her little boy told her about the insulting names he had been called by his teacher, the one Claudia had complained about, and a punishment he was given after being shouted at.
Claudia immediately reported the conversation to the headteacher.
The following day she was summoned to the head’s office, told the matter had been fully investigated and the allegations were groundless.
Claudia asked for details of the investigation and if the parent and teacher had been spoken to.
The head was adamant the matter was closed and Claudia should leave it.
Unconvinced by what she was told, Claudia raised her concerns with the local authority. She felt the school was not taking the concerns seriously.
It led to Claudia being suspended from work for pursuing the matter, failing to follow a reasonable management instruction and making malicious allegations against a colleague.
Claudia was distraught about the way in which she had been treated.
During the subsequent disciplinary investigation Claudia was invited to a fact finding meeting,
She robustly defended herself against the allegations, insisting the school’s failure to act caused her to do what she did.
However, it made no difference and she was later invited to a disciplinary hearing.
Claudia sought advice from a former colleague and she was advised to raise a grievance for unfavourable treatment for being a whistle-blower.
Heartbroken Claudia said she wanted the matter over quickly and did not wish to prolong it.
She also discussed constructive dismissal, but chose not to pursue that.
With the help of her ex colleague Claudia contacted the Castle Associates Employee Support Centre.
Our representative was appalled by the way Claudia had been treated. He was keen to understand what outcome she wanted.
Claudia made it clear she wanted the concerns taken seriously and investigated, and to be able to leave without being dismissed.
A settlement agreement was discussed and Claudia agreed that would be her preferred option.
At the disciplinary hearing our representative argued Claudia was a whistle-blower. He said she had been treated appallingly when by law she should have been protected
He maintained that treatment from both colleagues and the school leadership amounted to unfavourable treatment for being a whistle-blower.
The hearing was told Claudia’s actions in raising concerns with the local authority were honourable and well intentioned. Our representative said she was motivated by the school’s obvious failure to act in relation to serious concerns that posed a risk to the health and safety of pupils.
The case was discussed at length at the hearing before a settlement agreement was reached a short while after the meeting.
The school provided an assurance it would investigate the allegations against the teacher.
Shortly after the disciplinary hearing Claudia was interviewed as part of an investigation into the teacher. She was told at the end of the meeting that she may be required as a witness at a disciplinary hearing.
The teacher was suspended. Claudia was not needed as a witness at a disciplinary hearing, because the teacher resigned beforehand.