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'Foolish' parents lose school case

The "foolish, overbearing and demanding" parents of three children have lost their High Court damages action against a London independent school.

The behaviour of the French couple "went well beyond the realms of even the most zealous, some might say pushy, parents" and became an "enduring nightmare" for the Hall School Wimbledon, said Judge Jeremy Richardson.

The businessman and his wife, who cannot be identified to protect their two sons and daughter whom the judge described as "delightful", were the "authors of their own misfortune", while their case was unseemly and without one shred of believable evidence to support it.

"The focus of any school should be on the education and welfare of the children who attend it. Of course, parents need to play a full role and take a keen interest in their children. That is right and proper.

"But equally, parents must - and most do - appreciate that school is a community which needs to be permitted to get on with its principal task of educating children collectively. No school should be bombarded with unwarrantable demands by parents."

The couple brought a breach of contract action against the school, arising out of the termination of the education of the children in July 2012, when headmaster Tim Hobbs asked for them to be withdrawn - or they would be expelled - as the relationship between the family and the school had broken down. Before that, said the judge, the school was swamped with a relentless stream of letters and emails, mainly from the mother, which hardly had a good word to say.

The mother's loss of perspective and proportion was typified by her obsession with the results of a test taken by her six-year-old daughter and her complaint that she was given a grade A rather than an A+.

The judge said that most parents would have been "absolutely delighted" with the school's observation that the couple's children were a "credit to you both" and there were no concerns for their future development either academically or socially. Instead, the parents "viewed everything in a self-centred self-contained artifice as though no-one else but them and their children mattered".

At a parents evening, in early July 2012, the couple confronted teachers, kept one member of staff in discussion for 45 minutes and left two senior members of staff extremely upset. There followed the meeting with Mr Hobbs, at which it was said the children must leave through no fault of their own, with the next term's fees waived and deposits returned, due to the irretrievable breakdown in trust.

Mr Hobbs agreed to write supportive references for the boys to the head of nearby Donhead School, Chris McGrath, but did not, as was claimed, say he would not disclose information about the parents if asked, as it would have been professionally negligent to have done so. The judge rejected the couple's allegation that Mr Hobbs had conspired with Mr McGrath, resulting in the boys being refused a place.


From Belfast Telegraph