Teacher sacked for restraining 'out of control' pupil in line for compensation after unfair dismissal
A senior teacher is set to receive compensation after he was unfairly sacked for physically restraining an 'out of control' female pupil who attacked him.
Assistant principal Clive Kitchener tried to block the path of the student who then walked into him, hit him five times, kicked him and broke his glasses, an employment tribunal heard.
At the time, the 55-year-old was trying to ensure the girl – who had been excluded for walking out of lessons and throwing objects into classrooms – left the school.
Senior staff at Goodwin Academy in Deal, Kent, which is run by The Thinking Schools Academy Trust, decided Kitchener had used unnecessary force and sacked him from his £60,000 a year job for gross misconduct.
Former soldier Kitchener sued the school trust for unfair dismissal and has now won his claim after an employment judge ruled the school had not trained him properly on the use of force.
A hearing to decide his compensation will be held later this year.
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At a hearing in south London, a panel was told that on the day of the incident in October 2021 the pupil, referred to as Student A, was misbehaving by walking out of lessons, swearing, throwing things at people in classrooms, and barging into people in corridors.
The principal decided to exclude her and told Kitchener to make sure she left the school.
The employment tribunal panel heard that Kitchener told the girl she needed to go home, saying she had "not made wise decisions that day" which prompted her to storm off, refusing to leave the school.
Kitchener followed the pupil – who was "the same size as an adult" – until she turned around and walked towards him, swearing at him.
He decided to block her path, feeling she was "out of control" and the two ended up "pressed together".
The panel heard the pupil then hit the teacher five times around the head, breaking his glasses, and as the pair slid into a doorway, she kicked at his leg and groin before getting up and continuing down the corridor.
The following day the school – which has 900 pupils aged between 11 and 18 and whose most recent Ofsted report deemed it as 'requiring improvement' – launched an investigation and referred the incident to the police and local authority.
Neither chose to take further action, but the panel heard that school bosses felt Kitchener had used "unnecessary force" in dealing with the student.
He was asked to work from home for three weeks, and disciplinary proceedings began the following month, alleging that he had inappropriately managed the student's behaviour, broken the school's 'positive handling policy' and behaved unprofessionally.
Kitchener was sacked without notice for gross misconduct in April last year.
Stewart Gardener, CEO of The Thinking Schools Academy Trust, told the employment tribunal he "did not feel the level of behaviour exhibited by Student A merited a physical intervention [by Kitchener]".
He said the student "could have spent the whole day at school behaving in that fashion and physical intervention would not have been justified".
Kitchener appealed the decision to sack him without notice, and was allowed to work a notice period, but his dismissal was upheld, prompting him to pursue a case of unfair dismissal.
Employment Judge Michael Atkins concluded that he had been unfairly dismissed because the school had never provided him with any training on correctly using force to restrain children.
The judge said: "[Mr Kitchener] was at the school for three years and [The Thinking Schools Academy Trust] still didn’t provide the training.
"They exposed [him] to risk, as a result, he was physically assaulted.
"Student A was felt to be a sufficient health and safety risk that she could be excluded from school.
"[She] had been throwing objects at people and barging into them, de-escalation techniques had been tried and failed.
"[Mr Kitchener] then lost his job because he did not have the tools to handle the situation that [The Thinking Schools Academy Trust] was supposed to give him.
"It does not form any part of a fair procedure for [The Thinking Schools Academy Trust] to set him up to fail, and then fail to take proper account of their own failures."
Speaking after the tribunal, Kitchener, who started teaching six years ago after serving 23 years in the army, said: "It's been a difficult 18 months, but I'm now back doing what I enjoy.
"I'm glad that I won the tribunal, I want to be able to move on. I enjoy teaching, I do it because I love it, not for the wage."