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Dinner lady sacked 'for press talk'

A primary school dinner lady who told a couple that their seven-year-old daughter had been bullied in the playground was sacked for committing the "offence" of going to the press, a headteacher has explained to an employment tribunal.

Carol Hill's decision to tell the parents that their child had been tied and hit with a skipping rope at Great Tey Primary School, in Great Tey, Essex, was a breach of confidentiality which would have earned her a "final warning", head Deborah Crabb told a hearing in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk.

But by "talking" to a local newspaper, 61-year-old Mrs Hill brought the school into disrepute and had to be dismissed, said Mrs Crabb.

The tribunal heard that Mrs Hill, who earned around £125 a month monitoring children at lunchtimes and serving school meals, had been suspended by Mrs Crabb pending a school inquiry after giving details of the skipping rope incident to the couple in June 2009.

She told a local newspaper of her suspension and was then fired by governors for "gross misconduct" in September 2009 on Mrs Crabb's recommendation.

Mrs Hill says she was wrongly sacked, not given a correct notice period and is complaining that her rights to freedom of expression under European law were infringed.

The school disputes her claim for unfair dismissal and that the little girl was bullied. Mrs Crabb said the youngster had been "taking part in an inappropriate game which had gone too far".

Claire Darwin, for Mrs Hill, read from a school document in which Mrs Crabb explained that telling the parents was a "final warning" but "as you approached the press, I will recommend your dismissal".

"Because Mrs Hill approached the press, you decided she should be dismissed," said Miss Darwin.

Mrs Crabb replied: "Yes, by talking to the press she brought the school into disrepute."


From Belfast Telegraph