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Teacher's Solicitor's Statement in Full :
"F*** I'm good - just ask me"
An Employment Tribunal has found that the Head of John Kyrle High School in Ross on Wye was so angered by a drama teacher's union activity he became determined to dismiss her.
One of Nigel Griffith's emails simply read "FIGJAM. And bring me her file." when he thought he had found grounds to sack her. It emerged that FIGJAM, means F*** I'm Good, Just Ask Me. He also sent her a letter threatening police action that the tribunal found was "designed to intimidate the claimant in the performance of her trade union activities" and which her barrister described as "ridiculous, petulant, arrogant and whining".
Joanne Lucas, an experienced and motivated drama teacher, joined John Kyrle High School in Ross-on Wye in 2015. She worked extremely hard to improve her one-person department and single-handedly stage school productions and also volunteered her limited spare time to help her colleagues by becoming the school NEU rep. In July 2016 she led staff to participate in a national strike against cuts in pensions in the face of pressure from the school's senior management. The Tribunal found this was the event that prompted the letter and email.
Joanne was bitten by a blandford fly in 2015 and suffered fatigue and other symptoms due to reactive arthritis which was not correctly diagnosed and treated for another two years. In August 2016 her GCSE and A-level pupils did less well in their written exams than she had anticipated. In the modern world of education results are everything and the school were concerned about this. However, instead of considering the impact of her illness on her ability to teach during the school year, the school management decided to dismiss her for gross misconduct and devised false allegations, such as her deliberately deciding to not prepare students properly for the exams, altering performance documents and misleading her colleagues as to the true progress of her students.
The Tribunal carefully went through some 3000 pages of evidence and dismissed these reasons. It said:
"The Tribunal concluded on the basis of all of the evidence we heard that the main purpose for proceeding down a misconduct process – with allegations of wilful, deliberate, falsify conduct, and allegations of breach of trust – instead of a capability process which would consider the medical issues in more detail, was because of the significant animus that the respondent, and in particular Mr Griffiths, had towards the claimant. We concluded that this animus was expressed in emails and in his requests for evidence which coincided with the claimant’s trade union activities. We concluded that this animus was inextricably linked to the claimant’s trade union activities. It was this factor, we concluded, which triggered the disciplinary process instead of a capability process, and it was this which led inevitably to the allegations of gross misconduct. " (para 214)
It concluded that the only course open to any reasonable employer would have been to consider the lack of attainment by pupils within the school's competency process, that this would have led to a proper consideration of her medical condition and she would not have been dismissed. Ms Lucas won on every point except for her claim of direct disability discrimination, simply because the Tribunal reasoned that the school would have treated any trade union activist as badly as they treated Ms Lucas whether or not they were disabled.
The case will now be listed for a remedies hearing to determine the amount of compensation to be awarded.