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Ex-school's staff win maximum payout.....

"Published on Wednesday 28 November 2007 13:31

STAFF who were illegally dismissed from a former school in Darley Dale have won the maximum legal payout from an employment tribunal.

People working at St Elphin's on March 8, 2005 will be eligible for 90 days' pay on the grounds that the school broke the law by dismissing more than 20 staff within a 90 day period without consultation.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) learned last week that it had won its fight to see workers compensated.

ATL general secretary Dr Mary Bousted said: "It's been an uphill fight, requiring dogged persistence, but at last we are getting recompense for those who worked at St Elphin's.

"The owners blatantly broke the law, failing to consult the staff about their intentions and give them any notice of redundancy. They abandoned all responsibility for the pupils and staff without any regard for their welfare – leaving boarders with no roof over their heads and staff unpaid.

"The owners effectively kicked the staff in the teeth, showing no regard for their loyalty or valiant efforts to keep the school running."

The Department of Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform is currently investigating the school's owners, St Elphin's 2000 Ltd and St Elphin's (Darley Dale) Ltd.

As the company became insolvent in 2005, the payout will be met from the Government's redundancy payments office.

Rosemary Cuff, who was acting head of St Elphin's, recalls the owners arriving by helicopter to tell staff the school was to close immediately. Mrs Cuff refused to sign the papers, as exams were ongoing and boarders, some who were from abroad, would be left homeless.

The owners agreed to keep the school open for a further three days.

Mrs Cuff said: "This award should finally end what has been a nightmare.

"You just don't expect a school's owners to behave like that – demanding to shut a school full of pupils with no notice while they are doing their GCSEs and A-levels. The owners behaved appallingly.

"However, the staff were fantastic, everyone pulled out all the stops to sort out somewhere for pupils to live, for lessons to take place, and a timetable for lessons."

The Mercury was unable to contact the former owners of the school."


Reprinted by kind permission of Matlock Mercury

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