A sacked head teacher has won a mammoth payout from the Employment Tribunal after a year-long legal struggle.
Mr Bernie Routledge was suspended and then later sacked as the head of Howells in Denbeigh after he was accused of “inappropriate” conduct with pupils on Facebook. He was initially suspended because of his conduct and communication with pupils on a Facebook page which had been set up (the “Bernie Routledge Appreciation Society”). His partner, Ms Helen Price, was also sacked at the same time because of her association with Mr Routledge. The partners subsequently instructed an employment law solicitor and issued a claim for unfair dismissal against the school.
The couple won their Employment Tribunal hearing in March, with the remedies hearing taking place this month to determine how much each should be awarded. In March the Tribunal concluded that the pair had been unfairly dismissed, finding that there had been no evidence that Ms Price had done anything wrong in her role as head of PE and pastoral care, and that Mr Routledge’s style of teaching had been unorthodox but that the Respondent did not have an admissible reason for dismissing him. Tribunal panel chairman John Thomas stated that the disciplinary process at the school was “cack-handed” and “chaotic” and that Mr Routledge’s posting on Facebook wasn’t something which would justify dismissal.
The remedies hearing has now taken place, with Mr Routledge being awarded £217,000 and Ms Price £83,537. However, there were doubts as to whether the pair would actually be paid the sums outstanding as the company running the school, H2000 Ltd, has gone into liquidation.
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Mr Routledge commented after the remedies hearing that he had been “professionally and financially ruined” even though he had won the Employment Tribunal case and stated that he had spent his life savings on defending his reputation. Ms Price commented that they were “in the long line of creditors” to be paid by the school.
A spokesperson for Howell’s School said after the liability hearing in March: “The school does not tolerate misconduct in relation to the safeguarding of children and acted accordingly to dismiss the staff concerned and, while we accept we may not have followed the correct procedure, we still stand by our action and will be considering an appeal. We are in loco parentis and we take our responsibilities very seriously. We therefore acted quickly and decisively – we did the right thing for the right reason and we have been contacted by parents who fully support what we have done.”