Tribunal rejects claims Camden’s Haverstock School discriminated against disabled teaching assistant

Headteacher John Dowd spoke at the tribunal. Picture: Nigel Sutton

Headteacher John Dowd spoke at the tribunal. Picture: Nigel Sutton - Credit: Nigel Sutton

An employment tribunal has today rejected a former teaching assistant’s claims that she was discriminated against because of her disability.

Haverstock School

Haverstock School - Credit: Archant

Sarah Kelsey brought Haverstock School, in Chalk Farm, to court after being fired for deleting children’s classroom notes without saving them, failing to follow orders, and lying to managers about completing work, judges were told. She was also persistently late half the time she was supposed to be reading with under-performing children, the tribunal heard.

Miss Kelsey claimed that the school did not make allowances for her MS-related symptoms. But Employment Judge Sarah Goodman rejected all claims of disability discrimination at a hearing on Friday at London Central Employment Tribunal in Holborn.

After already ruling that her behaviour provided “grounds for dismissal,” the judge told the court: “There was clear evidence quite apart from her punctuality that she had failed to follow instructions, had covered up her lack of compliance, and had deleted work.

“We concluded that the dismissal was not because of unfair discrimination because of something arising from her disability.”

Judges heard that Miss Kelsey was suspended in June last year after repeatedly failing to save and then delete children’s work from computer devices called Alpha Smarts, which pupils use if they have problems writing notes onto paper. She then lied to her line managers about completing the task, the court heard. When she eventually sat down to do the work, she deleted notes without first saving them, it was said.

Miss Kelsey argued in court that there was no evidence that the work she had deleted was of any importance, which judges accepted. But ultimately Judge Goodman said: “She was guilty of what she was accused of doing”.

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She told the court that the panel of three employment judges would not have sacked her, but instead issued her with a final warning. But she added that it was “not an unfair decision,” describing the deletion of work and lies to line managers as “serious”. The court was told that Miss Kelsey was already considered as an unsatisfactory employee because of her punctuality. The teaching assistant claimed her lateness was due to her illness, and that she requested later starting times. But an occupational health report which backed up her request was only published one day before she was suspended, the court heard.

Judges ruled Miss Kelsey will be paid her nine-week notice period, totalling £2766.97. The court also ordered the school to pay a late payment for one day of work.

Otherwise, the judges rejected all claims of unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.