Claim Is Against School Management And Local Authority
Employment law experts at Irwin Mitchell are acting for a former teacher who alleges she was bullied out of her position at The Clere School in Hampshire.
Marie Hirst, mother of Sophie Hirst (12) who has Down’s Syndrome, raised concerns between September 2020 and April 2021 that the school was failing to provide adequate care and support to children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).
While working as a Learning Support Assistant at the school, Ms Hirst alleges she witnessed staff and co-workers at the school bully, undermine and humiliate students with learning disabilities. On several occasions, Ms Hirst states that she witnessed unattended and unsupervised SEND students outside in car parks and around the school. She alleges she witnessed staff members swearing in the presence of and abusing SEND students.
Ms Hirst reported these and further incidents to the management of the school, but alleges no action was taken.
Instead, Ms Hirst claims she was bullied and harassed by her colleagues at the school, on several occasions being publically reprimanded and humiliated in front of staff and colleagues. She believes she was deliberately left out of staff meetings, and staff refused to talk to her. The local authority Hampshire County Council has denied these claims on behalf of the school’s management.
These concerns were also raised, but Ms Hirst claims that her treatment by staff became even worse. She claims that on several occasions, her daughter Sophie was bullied by SEND staff in her presence.
Ms Hirst felt she had no choice but to resign in April 2021 and withdraw her daughter from the school. She has issued claims for constructive unfair dismissal, disability discrimination associated with her daughter’s Down’s Syndrome and whistleblowing detriment.
Shah Qureshi, her lawyer and partner at national law firm Irwin Mitchell commented:
Expert Opinion“Schools and public authorities have a duty of care towards their staff and the children in their care. Children with learning disabilities can often be in a particularly vulnerable position. Where concerns are raised about the mistreatment of children with learning disabilities, they need to be investigated properly and appropriate action taken.
“It is important that whistleblowers do not face retribution for raising their heads above the parapet.”
Shah Qureshi - Partner
Marie added: “I had various meetings to raise concerns but feel that that they were not acted upon properly. I did not want to be in this position as I loved my job. This has been a traumatic time for me and my family but I felt that I had no alternative but to act.”
Marie Hirst claims that it transpired that this mistreatment had been going on for five years at the Clere School and there have been further incidents of children being left unattended, and parents advise that their children are still not receiving the provision required under their Education Health and Care Plans (EHCP). These claims are denied by the school and local authority.
Lawyers from Irwin Mitchell have filed her claims to the Employment Tribunal. The case is expected to be heard by late 2022.