A teacher ordered to retrain and undergo a degree course at the age of 60 has been awarded £140,000 compensation in a discrimination case.
Sue Allington had worked for nearly 20 years at the fee-paying Rose Hill School in Tunbridge Wells. She had started as a games teacher in 2002, then taught maths to Year 2 pupils from 2012.
Ms Allington has A levels but not a degree. However, the Employment Tribunal heard evidence that she was considered an “excellent teacher” and “the best person for the job”.
In 2018, there were complaints from three parents that she lacked formal training.
The school responded by ask asking her to complete a degree course or be demoted to teaching assistant, which would result in a 40% pay cut from £30,723 to £19,095.
Ms Allington refused on the basis that it was unreasonable to expect her to complete an undergraduate degree when she was due to retire within five years.
She was dismissed in August 2019 and brought a claim of unfair dismissal due to age discrimination.
The school claimed its actions were necessary to meet the “ever-increasing levels of parental expectation”.
The tribunal found in favour of Ms Allington and awarded her £141,334 in compensation.
Judge Ian Truscott QC said: “Ms Allington was put at a disadvantage compared to others…she would not enjoy the benefit of the new qualification until close to retirement if not after.
“It seemed obvious that people between 60-65 are less likely to enrol in undergraduate courses compared to younger age groups.
“There is no obligation on the school for teachers to have qualified teacher status or equivalent. The school did not show that it had undertaken even basic research to conclude that having all qualified teachers would maintain a competitive edge or that it would meet ever-increasing parental expectation.
“The school did not show any parents left the school due to unqualified teachers or that pupils left in Year 2 as a result of Ms Allington being an unqualified teacher, or evidence of prospective pupils going elsewhere due to the presence of two unqualified teachers out of 77 teachers.”
Please contact David Rushmere if you would like more information about the issues raised in this article or any aspect of employment law.