Anorexic nursery teacher handed compensation over dealings with Camden headteacher

Bernadette Duffy, headteacher at the Thomas Coram Centre. Picture: Susannah Ireland.

Bernadette Duffy, headteacher at the Thomas Coram Centre. Picture: Susannah Ireland. - Credit: Susannah Ireland

The family of a nursery teacher who was forced to leave a children’s centre after developing a severe eating disorder, claim that she has been so traumatised by Camden Council’s treatment of her that she will never be able to work as a teacher again.

Last week, the council reached an out-of-court settlement with Jane Gray, 35, who was an early-years educator at the Thomas Coram Centre in Bloomsbury between 2005 and 2011.

An employment tribunal found that the council had breached Ms Gray’s employment rights.

Judge Andrew Glennie ruled that the council had breached its duty by allowing Thomas Coram’s headteacher, Bernadette Duffy, to chair a return-to-work hearing that Ms Gray was asked to attend while on sick leave, despite objections from Ms Gray who had been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.

The judge also ruled Ms Duffy was in breach by sending a letter directly to Ms Gray, despite instructions from Ms Gray’s family that she was not to receive any correspondence due to stress.

John Petters, 60, the teacher’s father-in-law, represented her at the employment tribunal last year.

He said she had been “terrified” at the prospect of meeting Ms Duffy due to the anxiety and paranoia caused by her illness.

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She did not attend the return-to-work hearing in August 2011, but Mr Petters claims the council harassed Ms Gray about her employment status from the time she took sick leave in December 2010 until her resignation in November 2011.

He said: “She feels she can never return to the career that she loved with children because of the treatment she received from Camden. It traumatised her so much.”

Ms Gray is now unemployed and recovering at home in Bishop’s Stortford, Hertfordshire.

Signs of her eating disorder began to emerge in 2008 and by 2010 her weight had dropped from around 10st to just over 6st.

Concerns about her welfare were raised with Ms Duffy in summer 2010 by colleagues who saw her break down and rush out of classes a number of times.

In December, Ms Gray went on sick leave. She never returned and resigned in November 2011.

Judge Mr Glennie dismissed claims of harassment related to disability and disability discrimination by Camden Council.

A council spokesman said: “The employment tribunal found we had failed to make a reasonable adjustment on two very minor counts and 25 of 27 claims were dismissed.

“We take all reasonable steps to work with any member of staff with a disability.”