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Ex-headteacher from Holywell loses unfair dismissal case

Published date: 14 February 2013 |
Published by: Staff Reporter
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THE former head of a school who said she was ousted from her job after just two years has lost her claim for unfair dismissal.

Catherine Simpson, from Lixwm, near Holywell, who was head of St Brigid’s School in Denbigh, says she was forced to resign in January, 2012 after school governors had undermined her efforts.

She told an employment tribunal in Denbigh last November she had “ruffled a few feathers” by introducing changes which succeeded in improving standards at the 525-pupil Roman Catholic school.

She accused the chairman of the governing body, Philip Eyton-Jones, of paying too much attention to “tittle-tattle” and rumours over her private life in a bid to oust her.

Mrs Simpson was suspended in August, 2011, after her former partner Paul Lewis sent Mr Eyton-Jones a letter highlighting four matters of concern.

He claimed to have stayed overnight at the school, which is Wales’s only state boarding school, and Mrs Simpson had disclosed confidential matters to him. She was restored as head the following month.

Mrs Simpson, who was formerly head of partnerships and inclusion with Denbighshire Council, accused Mr Eyton-Jones of colluding with Mr Lewis.

During her time at the school the Mrs Simpson also clashed with one of the parent-governors, Dr Markus Hesseling, about his handling of certain matters and she claimed the final straw came when she had a disagreement with the current chairman of governors, Tony Hannigan.

“I believe I was continually bullied, undermined and purposely embarrassed by the respondents and had my trust and confidence breached,” she said.

But giving his judgement in Denbigh yesterday employment judge John Hoult said although there was no question Mrs Simpson was extremely competent at her job, none of the issues raised by her, either individually or accumulatively, constituted breach of contract and justified her claim of constructive dismissal.

Even the fact that Mr Eyton-Jones should not have mentioned to Mr Lewis at a Rotary Club meeting that Mrs Simpson was to get the headship after filling the role on an interim basis was not a breach of contract as it was very soon public knowledge, he said.

Evidence was given at the hearing that Mrs Simpson had mentioned before resigning that she already had another job lined up which “was too good to miss”.

Mr Hoult said: “The balance of probabilities was that she had accepted the new post even if incidents had pushed her in that direction.”

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