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County pays out £500,000 to avoid teacher tribunals

PUBLISHED: 10:26 15 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:43 15 January 2014

Colin Collis, county secretary of the NASUWT.; Photo: Bill Smith

Colin Collis, county secretary of the NASUWT.; Photo: Bill Smith

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Norfolk schools were last year set to spend £500,000 in payouts to teachers to end their employment if they signed a ‘gagging clause’ and agreed not to take their case to an employment tribunal.

The total cost of compromise agreements, revealed by an EDP freedom of information request, was £425,900 in the first 10 months of 2013, compared to £241,000 for the whole of 2012, and involved 49 teachers, compared to 28 the year before.

Compromise agreements allow both sides to settle an employment dispute without a lengthy tribunal case, and usually involve a payout and an agreement not to talk about the dispute, although Norfolk County Council said its agreements include a clause allowing whistleblowing.

Teaching unions said last year saw a “record number” of compromise agreements, and that while reasons were complex, one big factor was increased pressure on schools from Ofsted, with many cases involving questions about a teacher’s capability.

Chris Collis, county secretary of the NASUWT teaching union, said: “It’s not doing education any good.

“Most of the teachers leaving on compromise agreements are professional, good teachers who have
been threatened in one way or another or lost confidence in the school, or the school has lost confidence in them.

“It’s headteachers being under pressure to be seen to take action in some macho way.”

A number of headteachers, who asked not to be named, agreed that the capability of teachers was likely to be involved in many of the agreements.

Some suggested the increase could be due to new headteachers, or new sponsors of schools converting to academies, using the compromise agreement process to remove unwanted staff.

Norfolk County Council said individual school governing bodies decide whether to use compromise agreements.

The council also signed compromise agreements with six of its staff in January-October 2013, an increase from three in 2012, with a total of £83,700 paid out.

A spokesman said: “Compromise agreements are an option we sometimes use when trying to resolve a dispute with staff where the employment relationship has broken down and it is of mutual benefit to end it.

“The decision would be based on the facts of the case and whether it was a reasonable and cost-effective way to resolve the dispute.

“It’s important to remember that both the employer and employee have to agree to enter into a compromise agreement.

“Employment disputes can be very complex and it may be that a compromise agreement, with terms agreed by both parties, offers the best solution for everyone.”

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