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Teacher Kay Hart 'dismissed unfairly' from Central Primary School in Watford
A former special needs teacher has won an unfair dismissal case against the Watford school which sacked her after the sudden death of her husband left her battling depression.
Kay Hart was dismissed from Central Primary School seven months after going on sick leave due to being diagnosed with the reactive depression.
An Employment Tribunal held this month into her case heard the 60-year-old’s husband of 26 years, Graham, had died suddenly from heart failure aged just 56 in April 2011.
At the time Mrs Hart was given five days compassionate leave before returning to the school, in Derby Road.
The tribunal heard within two months of returning the teacher was told by superiors "she seemed to have lost enthusiasm for her job".
In her statement to the tribunal, Mrs Hart said: "The [school] made no attempt to understand my situation or to make the according adjustments. Less than two months after the death of my husband, the Respondent commented that I seemed to have lost enthusiasm for my job. I found this insensitive as, at the time, I was getting through each day as best I could."
In his ruling on the case Judge Herbert OBE said he found the remark to a "rather insensitive comment".
The tribunal was told at the time Mrs Hart had been rated "satisfactory" by Ofsted and she was given "support" to improve her performance.
However Judge Herbert said evidence suggested the rating had been informed by errors made by Mrs Hart’s teaching assistants.
Yet as a result her lesson plans were then placed under direct supervision of the headteacher John Mynott and her lessons subjected to monitoring and spot checks.
In March last year Mrs Hart signed off work with "moderate depression relating to bereavement" and started to undergo counselling. Within a week she was referred to an occupational health unit, which worried her as it is not something that happens until four to six weeks of continuous absence.
In her statement Mrs Hart, who lives on the Kingswood estate in north Watford, said: "This left me very concerned about his attitude towards me and I felt that I was being pushed out of a job I loved."
In October she was invited to a hearing at school which Mrs Hart was warned could end in her dismissal.
At meeting she was informed her employment was being terminated with two months notice. The school said its reasons were she could not give a date for a return and the needs of her pupils could not be met by supply teachers.
However Judge Herbert found: "The school only looked at the impact on the school and did not appear to have considered the impact on the claimant that her teaching experience would be lost and naturally felt by some of the children."
He ruled Mrs Hart was dismissed unfairly due to direct discrimination attributable to her disability.
Following the hearing Mrs Hart told the Watford Observer: "I absolutely loved my job, especially helping pupils with speech disorders back into mainstream school. The impact has been absolutely devastating. It was devastating to lose my husband, but then to lose my job as well."
The school declined to comment as a settlement has yet to be reached in the case.