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Whistleblowing teacher sacked after revealing naughty children were hidden away during inspection

A whistleblowing teacher who was sacked after revealing how naughty children were kept hidden away on squash courts during an Ofsted inspection has won a claim for unfair dismissal.

Ged Thomas told Ofsted that unruly pupils were kept hidden away from inspectors during a visit to ‘inadequate’ Berwick Academy, in Northumberland.

The PE and Maths teacher was later sacked by the academy after he posted critical comments about headteacher Alexis Widdowson on Facebook. 

Mr Thomas took the academy to a tribunal claiming unfair dismissal after his 2018 sacking.

Ms Widdowson meanwhile resigned before the damning report – which labelled the academy as ‘inadequate’ – was published.

Now employment judges have ruled that Mr Thomas was unfairly dismissed – due to what the tribunal heard was the school’s ‘deeply flawed’ internal disciplinary investigation.

Ged Thomas (pictured) told Ofsted that unruly pupils were kept hidden away from inspectors during a visit to 'inadequate' Berwick Academy, in Northumberland

Ged Thomas (pictured) told Ofsted that unruly pupils were kept hidden away from inspectors during a visit to 'inadequate' Berwick Academy, in Northumberland

Ged Thomas (pictured) told Ofsted that unruly pupils were kept hidden away from inspectors during a visit to ‘inadequate’ Berwick Academy, in Northumberland

The PE and Maths teacher was later sacked by the academy after he posted critical comments about headteacher Alexis Widdowson (pictured) on Facebook

The PE and Maths teacher was later sacked by the academy after he posted critical comments about headteacher Alexis Widdowson (pictured) on Facebook

The PE and Maths teacher was later sacked by the academy after he posted critical comments about headteacher Alexis Widdowson (pictured) on Facebook

In a 44-page judgment, they found the school’s policy on social media use and whistleblowing was overly ‘complex’ and ‘it was inevitable there would be disagreement on whether they were complied with fully.’

The panel also concluded that making the negative social media comments had not been an ‘indication of any disloyalty’ to his employers. 

The employment tribunal heard Mr Thomas blew the whistle to Ofsted over allegations troublesome pupils had been ‘hidden’ while on sick leave in January 2018.

The judgment said ‘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 through their online school teachers portal, whilst sitting in his car.

‘These clearly were protected disclosures. He later received requests for further information from Ofsted and the DfE.’

The school was graded inadequate in March 2018, with inspectors particularly critical of school leadership – which they said had failed to improve the school since its previous inspection.

Ms Widdowson had resigned earlier that month, with the tribunal hearing that it was ‘most likely that she metaphorically ‘jumped before she was pushed’ by the awful Ofsted findings’.

Mr Thomas later commented on a Facebook post from the Berwick Advertiser, which had reported Ms Widdowson’s resignation.

Replying to another Facebook user, he talked about Ms Widdowson’s ‘ability to manipulate, persuade, bully and lie’ and ‘failed approach to behaviour management, teaching & learning, staff management & leadership’. 

The comments were reported to the school and Mr Thomas was dismissed.

Academy chiefs claimed the social media posts, which they judged as derogatory or offensive, were ‘the sole reason for dismissal’.

However. the tribunal judge said the investigation was ‘one-sided and completely inadequate’. 

Bosses at the academy (pictured) claimed the social media posts, which they judged as derogatory or offensive, were 'the sole reason for dismissal'

Bosses at the academy (pictured) claimed the social media posts, which they judged as derogatory or offensive, were 'the sole reason for dismissal'

Bosses at the academy (pictured) claimed the social media posts, which they judged as derogatory or offensive, were ‘the sole reason for dismissal’

Employment judge Tudor Garnon concluded: ‘The respondent has not proved on the balance of probabilities the claimant was guilty of gross misconduct because any breach of lawful and reasonable instructions was not an indication of his disloyalty to, or wish to harm, the academy as such.’

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 and compensation is expected to be determined at a later hearing.

Mr Thomas told Chronicle Live he was ‘reasonably pleased’ to have won the tribunal. 

Berwick Academy is a mixed school which caters for 472 pupils, aged between 13 and 18.

During a monitoring visit in 2019, inspectors noted ‘significant improvements were still necessary’ while acknowledging that ‘positive measures had been implemented’. 

MailOnline has contacted the academy for a comment. Donna Goddard, Chair of Trustees at Berwick Academy, told Chronicle Live that the trust was ‘disappointed’ by the outcome.

Source: Daily Mail |World News

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