Former Primary School Headteacher Accused of Bullying Teachers out of their Jobs

A disciplinary panel in Coventry held by the National College for Teaching and Leadership has been told that Margaret Gretton bullied seven members of staff out of their jobs during her post.

Margaret Gretton, who denies the accusations, was dismissed from her role at Burton Joyce Primary School in early 2014 following allegations of gross misconduct.

On the third day of proceedings, the disciplinary panel heard from office manager Wendy Haywood who listed a number of previous members of staff whom she believes to have left due to the actions of the former head teacher.

Wendy Haywood herself was signed off between July and November 2012 with a diagnosis of work related stress because of Margaret Gretton’s conduct.

She said that the head teacher “would make staff very uncomfortable to the point they would leave or be pushed out of the school. She would speak about them to me and I thought that wasn’t right. She would make out that they were not very good teachers. She just bullied these people and it felt like she was setting a trap for you. It was unbelievably tense. She was a very powerful clever lady and I did not know what could be done. I could not cope, if she had remained in post I could not have gone back to the school.”

Wendy Haywood supported allegations from another witness that Margaret Gretton had mocked an Asian job applicant who attached a photo with his CV saying: “Miss Gretton put on an accent with the photo. She took the photo with her on a trip to Skegness and I also saw her photocopy it several times. She made comments about the photo before during and after the trip. She even sent me a picture message from Skegness of the applicant to show me she had taken it with her. The photo was also bluetacked to the corner of her monitor.”

She also said that she had never had problems with work related stress before working with the former head teacher and since returning to the school has not had any further time off.

She said the situation got progressively worse and that Margaret Gretton frequently told her to “keep things from some governors”. “Miss Gretton said if I can’t do it I will get someone that can. It felt like a threat to me. She was very inappropriate on several occasions.”

The hearing, which will determine if Margaret Gretton should be struck off, continues.

Sadly, the issues of bullying at work are not unique to the teaching professional and a becoming frequently commonplace within almost every field of employment.

From a legal perspective, employers have a duty of care to their employees to protect them from an injury to their health attributable to stress at work.

An Employer therefore is also under a duty to prevent bullying and harassment in the workplace and should have comprehensive bullying and harassment policies which ought to be adhered to. Furthermore, under the Protection from Harassment Act 1997, an employer will also be vicariously liable for the acts of their employees in most circumstances.

In such situations where an employer has failed in their duty of care, those suffering with work related stress may be able to claim compensation for the impact matters have had on their health, the cost of any necessary treatment on a private paying basis and lost earnings from their employer.

The legal position for those who have suffered or who are suffering with stress at work is complex.

Michael Lewin Solicitors are specialists in claims for work related stress.

If you believe that you would benefit from legal advice on this matter or believe you may have a claim against your employer, please call us on 0844 499 9302 or email stress@michaellewin.co.uk

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