Teacher in 'corporate bullying' claim is paid £12,500 over unfair dismissal case

Rob Waugh

A YORKSHIRE council has paid a teacher 12,500 after it conceded he had been unfairly dismissed following allegations of bullying and harassment.

Barnsley Council paid the money to Rob Butler, a science teacher, who claimed he had been made ill by his treatment at Darton High School.

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Mr Butler, who had a 25-year career in management at a number of blue chip companies before taking up teaching, began working at Darton in September 2007. Three years previously he had begun his teaching career at Holmfirth High School, and in the summer of 2007 he secured an advanced skills teacher qualification. But despite his rapid progress, Mr Butler’s stint at Darton ran into difficulties in his second term when he says he was subjected to sustained and unwarranted criticism which led to him going off sick with work-related stress in April 2008.

While off sick, Mr Butler began to look for alternative teaching jobs but after securing interviews but said he was told his reference from Darton had ruled him out.

Mr Butler tried to return to work at Darton in 2009, after being declared fit by a doctor, but the school refused to accept him back, which prompted his resignation in May 2009 and subsequent claim for unfair dismissal.

He has since obtained copies of initial references drawn up by then headteacher Simon Hill in which his performance as a teacher was criticised. They bear no comparison to a later reference, also written by Mr Hill, which described him in positive terms and recommended him for the job Mr Butler currently holds at Copley High School in Stalybridge.

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Mr Hill declined to comment on why he had written different references or any other matter to do with Mr Butler’s case.

Mr Butler said: “I think I was subjected to corporate bullying and policy failure – and it was systemic failure throughout the whole process.

“I don’t think any organisation can stop individuals from being bullied; these things happen. But if they had just followed their own policies and not engaged in delaying tactics, obfuscation and systemic incompetence this would have been resolved.”

Barnsley Council declined to comment on the case or how much it had spent on legal fees.

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A letter sent to the employment tribunal by the council’s solicitor, Steve Hirst, earlier this year confirmed the authority was conceding the case.

But the council claimed it was only admitting unfair dismissal on the grounds that it was having difficulty gaining instructions from two “pivotal employees directly involved in this matter” – one of whom was Mr Hill, who has left to become an education consultant.