Dinner lady in bullies row wins sacking claim

A school playground monitor who was sacked after telling a couple how their daughter was tied up and hit by other children has claimed to have won her case for unfair dismissal - but a row has broken out over the result of the tribunal.

Union Unison released a statement yesterday claiming that Carol Hill, who lost her job at Great Tey Primary School in Great Tey, Essex, in 2009, had won her claim but Essex County Council later refuted it, saying such a suggestion was "completely inaccurate".

The ruling was not read out in public but sent to the parties involved.

The 62-year-old from Great Tey, was suspended following the incident in June 2009, an employment tribunal in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, was told in November.

She told a local newspaper of her suspension and was then dismissed by governors the following September.

Mrs Hill claimed she was unfairly dismissed and said there had not been a "proper, fair and reasonable" investigation.

She argued that she was not given a correct notice period and complained that her rights to freedom of expression under European law were infringed.

A three-strong tribunal panel reserved judgment following a three-day hearing.

Yesterday a Unison spokeswoman said: "The tribunal has upheld Carol Hill's complaint of unfair dismissal.

"The employment tribunal found that Carol's dismissal was procedurally unfair, in that the school did not carry out a reasonable investigation into the allegations against Carol and that the disciplinary and appeal hearings were not fair hearings."

Unison said the tribunal panel would consider whether Mrs Hill should be compensated and reinstated at a hearing in Bury St Edmunds scheduled for February 2.

The spokeswoman added: "There is going to be a remedies hearing therefore Mrs Hill must have won her claim for unfair dismissal."

Mrs Hill said: "This is the best new year news I could have.

"I am delighted and very relieved that the tribunal found that I was unfairly dismissed.

"I have always had the welfare of the children in my care at heart and I still miss working at the school."

But an Essex County Council spokeswoman said: "It is completely inaccurate to suggest that Mrs Hill has won her claim for unfair dismissal.

"Furthermore there has been no judgment on the fairness, or not, of the dismissal and the tribunal makes it clear there is need for further representation from both counsels to decide this point.

"On a number of critical points, the employment tribunal ruling has found against Mrs Hill including that she was not acting in good faith when speaking to the press and did so for the purpose of personal gain.

"The claimant's predominant motive was self interest and to a lesser extent antagonism towards school head Deborah Crabb.

"The tribunal also ruled that disclosures were not protected under the Employment Rights Act, therefore she was not acting as a whistleblower.

"The council and school will now be considering all the options before making any further decisions or announcements."

The tribunal heard that the seven-year-old girl appeared to have been tied to a playing field fence by her wrist then whipped across the legs with a skipping rope by a number of boys.

Mrs Crabb said four boys involved had explained that they were playing a game called "prisoners and guards".

She said the incident was not bullying but an inappropriate game that went too far.

Mrs Crabb said she sent a letter to the girl's parents saying: "You may wish to know the girl had a minor accident today. She was hurt on the right leg and right wrist with a skipping rope."

She told the panel that Mrs Hill was sacked for committing the "offence of going to the press" and by talking to a journalist she had bought the school into disrepute,