Teacher Dismissed for Failing to Disclose a Relationship
Wednesday 16th May 2018
In the case of Reilly v Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council, a head teacher at a primary school was summarily dismissed because she did not inform the school’s governing body that she had a close relationship with someone who had been convicted of making indecent images of children.
The local authority summarily dismissed her for gross misconduct and was particularly concerned by her refusal to accept that her relationship with the man in question might pose a threat to pupils.
The head teacher claimed that she had been unfairly dismissed. The case went to the Supreme Court which held that an employment tribunal had been entitled to conclude that the dismissal was reasonable and they upheld it.
The Supreme Court took into account that the relationship created a potential risk to the children and held that her failure to disclose amounted to a breach of her contractual duty to advise, assist and inform the school’s governing body in fulfilling its responsibility under section 175(2) of the Education Act 2002 to safeguard the pupils. In addition, her refusal to accept that she had been in breach of duty suggested a continuing lack of insight which rendered her continuing as head teacher inappropriate.
The case is arguably helpful for employers because it makes it clear that staff who are responsible for children or vulnerable adults are under a very broad obligation to make disclosures with respect to any safeguarding concerns. In light of this case, organisations should revisit existing safeguarding processes and take steps to ensure appropriate safeguarding procedures are in place. It is also important that staff are aware of the potential consequences for failing to disclose such relationships (or indeed other safeguarding concerns) by expressly including these as examples of misconduct in disciplinary procedures and contractual terms.