County pays out £500,000 to avoid teacher tribunals

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

Wednesday, January 15, 2014
10:26 AM

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.

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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.”

4 comments

  • Off course, with these gagging clauses, the deficiencies will never come out. Schools publicity and standing in the league tables more important than the continuity and stability among teaching staff and their pupils?

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • In reply to Popeyes comments, as I understand ..... From a friend who agreed to a compromise agreement ....... The reference given would be as basic as it gets. Really just a confirmation of dates when they worked there and no more. Nothing about their character, behaviour etc. pretty obvious to a future employer that something odd went on!

    Report this comment

    samphirelover

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • So you have Norfolk 49 teachers last year who accepted a £10,000 payout rather than go to tribunal where £40,000 would have been a typical award (max £70,000) for unfair dismissal. This indicates to me that they knew that they would lose (after receiving advice from their respective unions no doubt) and accepted the cash deal. I am not sure what a teacher would put on his cv after leaving a school on a compromise agreement, and what does the teachers ex head put by way of reference, or is the head gagged as well? All very messy and not good for education as a profession.

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    Rhombus

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

  • Compromise agreements are often used as a quick fix to avoid a long and drawn out tribunal. Sometimes it feels a bit galling to give someone who is clearly incompetent a pay off when there is a good chance that a tribunal would uphold the management's decision but often the view is that it is best to resolve the issue quickly. As samphire lover says, the references people who have received comp agreements receive are very basic and easy to spot so comp agreements aren't necessarily in the best interest of the employee.

    Report this comment

    Betty Swallocks

    Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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