Case Review: Sacked Head Teacher awarded £217,000 for unfair dismissal claim

A former head teacher of a private girls’ school in North Wales has been awarded nearly £217,000 following an unfair dismissal claim.

Bernie Routledge and his former partner Helen Price both brought an unfair dismissal claim against Howell’s School in Denbigh in March 2013.

Ms Price, who was head of the PE department, was also awarded over £83,000 by the same Tribunal.

The claims follow a high profile failure at the 154 year old private school, after the company running the establishment went into liquidation.

Mr Routledge had been sacked as Head of Howell’s School for alleged “inappropriate” conduct with pupils on the social networking site Facebook. He commented after the Tribunal hearing that he had been “professionally and financially ruined”. Although Mr Routledge and Ms Price are vindicated by the decision of the Tribunal, they stand to receive no damages because the school has been put into liquidation. He commented to BBC Wales “all my savings have gone on defending my reputation, but what redress do I have?”

An Employment Tribunal in March found that there was no evidence to justify their dismissals and found in their favour. Commenting on the Tribunal Judgment, Ms Price said “it doesn’t look like we’ll get anything. We’ll just be in a long line of creditors”.

A third employee, Morwen Murray, who was head of music at the school, was also awarded nearly £900 in compensation at a further Employment Tribunal in early September. This was connected to a claim for unlawful deduction of earnings, following time off for illness. Ms Murray’s union representative from the NASUWT said that she had been sacked without notice in early August and received her P45 just one day before Howell’s School announced it was closing. The NASUWT also confirmed that Ms Murray, with 15 years’ service at Howell’s School, will also be pursuing a claim for unfair dismissal against the company running it, H2000 Ltd.

Although with the company operating the school in liquidation there appears to be very little chance of any of the claimants receiving the compensation awarded, the NASUWT said that claims were being brought because of the principles involved.