A head-teacher of a £18,000-a-year girls-only school has taken his unfair dismissal claim to the Employment Tribunal after he was sacked last year for allegedly breaching the school’s policy with a Facebook page he created.
Mr Bernie Routledge was head-teacher at Howell’s School, north Wales, until the incident occurred last year. In early 2012 he apparently created a page on Facebook called the “Bernie Routledge Appreciation Society” – or “BRAS” for short. The trustees of the school objected to this and stated that Mr Routledge had breached the school’s social media policy. He was therefore subjected to an investigation by Mr Alan Locke and the results of the investigation recommended disciplinary proceedings. Mr Alan Locke’s brother, Mr Richard Locke, sent a letter to Mr Routledge stating ten allegations of misconduct and arranging a disciplinary hearing, which Mr Richard Locke chaired. Mr Routledge was subsequently sacked for gross misconduct after this disciplinary hearing. He was not offered the opportunity to appeal the decision He subsequently took advice from employment law solicitors and issued an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal and detriment due to a protected disclosure. Mr Routledge had only been employed by the school for nine months prior to his dismissal and therefore is relying on the “automatic unfair dismissal” ground of being dismissed for making a protected disclosure. If the Tribunal finds in his favour then he is entitled to claim potentially unlimited compensation.
The Employment Tribunal heard evidence from both Mr Routledge and the school earlier this month. Mr Routledge’s representative, a Mr Benson, questioned the school’s handling of Mr Routledge’s dismissal, in particular criticising Robert Locke’s actions and the failure to allow Mr Routledge an appeal. Further, he claimed that there was a “campaign” to remove Mr Routledge after Mr Locke had been angered regarding a boarding inspection. The school, in return, gave evidence relating to Mr Routledge breaching the school’s disciplinary policy and social media policy – a policy which, it was alleged, Mr Routledge drafted himself.
It also came to light at the Employment Tribunal that Mr Routledge’s partner – a Ms Helen Price, former head of pastoral care at the school – was also sacked at the same time in 2012 whilst she was pregnant. She is also claiming unfair dismissal after being summarily dismissed whilst pregnant for her conduct at Mr Routledge’s disciplinary hearing and for her relationship with the head-teacher, which Mr Locke deemed inappropriate.
The Employment Tribunal is continuing.