A caretaker who alleges he suffered a breakdown after a personality clash with a headteacher who “turned around” a failing school is claiming £100,000 compensation for work-related stress.
Koullis Constantinou, 64, says he had a series of run-ins with Merryl Roberson after she was brought in to revive Malden Manor primary school in New Malden, alleging she repeatedly “told him off” and insisting she “didn’t like him”.
He wrote a letter to governors entitled “witchhunt” in January 2014 claiming Ms Roberson was “out to get him” because his GP had signed him off work. Mr Constantinou is now seeking damages from Kingston-upon-Thames council, blaming the head for his breakdown.
But the council insists Ms Roberson did nothing wrong, and says the caretaker’s breakdown was triggered by the rejection of a work grievance he had lodged about her.
Central London county court heard Ms Roberson had joined Malden Manor as a “dynamic and hands-on” super-head in 2012 after the school had been rated as “requires improvement” by Ofsted. Mr Constantinou said he tried to keep a low profile at work after some initial incidents with Ms Roberson.
“Despite being told off on a few occasions, I tried to dismiss these as one-off events,” he said. “I got on with the job and tried to keep out of her way as much as I could.” He told the court: “I just don’t think she liked me — that’s all.”
Mr Constantinou claims the head “started shouting at him” when he requested a holiday in summer 2013, and they clashed again when a tree fell into the school nursery’s car park. He told her he had contacted three contractors to deal with it but they were all busy. He claimed Ms Roberson shouted at him: “That’s not good enough, I want some positivity.”
He claims a bout of depression was triggered by other incidents, including an investigation when he accidentally exposed asbestos bricks at the school. Laura Johnson, for the council, said Ms Roberson denies ever shouting at the caretaker and said he was a “challenging employee to manage”. Judge Stephen Hellman will rule later on the council’s application to dismiss his claim.