MP calls for sacked dinner lady inquiry

A CABINET Minister has ordered an Essex school to conduct a proper inquiry into why a dinner lady was sacked for telling parents their daughter had been bullied.

Roddy Ashworth

A CABINET Minister has ordered an Essex school to conduct a proper inquiry into why a dinner lady was sacked for telling parents their daughter had been bullied.

Secretary of state for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls has written to the Chairman of Governors at Great Tey Primary School asking for a “clear plan” to deal with a complaint from Scott David, whose daughter Chloe, 7, was whipped with skipping ropes by fellow pupils.

Mr David's complaint centres around the dismissal of dinner lady Carol Hill, who had told him and his wife Claire about the bullying incident, assuming the school had already informed them.

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However, the 60-year-old dinner lady was later told she had broken confidentiality rules and could no longer work at the school.

On Friday her appeal was rejected, although she has indicated she may still take her case to an employment tribunal.

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Meanwhile Mr Balls has demanded that the governors address Mr David's complaint about the way the matter was handled.

Yesterday a spokesman for the Department of Children, Schools and Families said: “Ed Balls has been concerned about this incident from the outset and his office has been in touch with Mr David and the school for several weeks.

“He asked DCSF officials to contact the school last month asking them to set out a clear plan on dealing with this situation.

“He also advised Mr David to go through the formal complaints procedure.

“He is therefore very disappointed that the school has not implemented its own complaints policy and carried out a full investigation.

“That is why he has written to the Chair of Governors making clear that he will direct them to do so unless they respond positively in the next 15 days.

“The Secretary of State has not taken this decision lightly, but he felt strongly that in this instance the schools response to Mr David has just not been acceptable.”

Yesterday in the House of Commons Bernard Jenkin, MP for North Essex, challenged Mr Balls on the matter, saying: “May I express a degree of surprise that the Secretary of State has written a letter to the Chair of Governors of Great Tey Primary School on Thursday, asserting that the school had failed to follow their published complaints procedures on the basis of representations from the parents of only one child, without apparently consulting the Local Education Authority who are responsible for giving impartial advice?”

Mr Balls replied: “I actually contacted the school, through my officials, in September.

“I pointed out to the school their obligations in law to make sure that a proper complaints procedure was followed when a parent made a complaint.

“I wrote to them last week, two months later, to say how much I regretted the fact that they hadn't had a proper complaints procedure in this case and I asked them to reflect again.

“Either they will reflect again, if not, I will have to require them to have a proper complaints procedure, it is very important they do, because I think in this case, there are some very, very substantial concerns about the treatment of that child which are not being properly addressed at the moment by the school and by the governors.”

No-one at the school was available for comment last night.

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