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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 November, 2003, 00:21 GMT
Bullied teacher awarded 86,000
A teacher who developed depression after she was bullied by her head teacher has won 86,487 in damages.

Margaret Menzies said she had been left "anxious and exhausted" before retiring early from Chalgrove Primary School in Barnet, north London.

Head teacher Valerie Hughes had been "rude, aggressive and intimidatory" towards staff, Judge Brian Knight told Central London County Court.

Ms Menzies, who has since moved to New Zealand, was also awarded costs.

'Drip, drip effect'

Judge Knight said: "Staff morale was low and Valerie Hughes was unapproachable, unfair in her dealings with the claimant and rude, aggressive and intimidatory in her dealings with the claimant, some children and parents."

He was also critical of the local authority's senior primary schools inspector David Burns.

Though informed of what was happening to Ms Menzies and its impact on her health, he had failed to treat the matter sufficiently seriously, it was added.

Ms Menzies, 58, said "I suffered from the drip, drip effect of undermining, intimidating and unfair treatment.

"There wasn't a single big event but continuing dismissal of me as a professional, constant criticism of me behind my back.

'Couldn't sleep'

"My every move was wrong in her [Ms Hughes'] eyes. She wanted me to leave, as 15 other people had in four years."

Ms Menzies added: "I got to the stage where I couldn't sleep and I was losing weight.

"I was anxious and exhausted and would freeze at the thought of going into school.

"Sometimes when I went home in the evenings, I would go to bed immediately and stay there. It was the only place I felt safe.

"I still can't visit a school even though I am no longer teaching. I loved teaching. I never imagined this would happened to me.

"But four years of being treated as useless, of being shouted at and accused of lack of professionalism have taken their toll."

Ms Menzies started work at Chalgrove Primary School in 1988.

Her responsibilities included being a class teacher, English co-ordinator, premises manager and a teacher-governor.

Ms Hughes was appointed as head teacher in 1997.

Within a year, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) was called by staff wanting to express their concern about the way she was running the school and treating staff.

By November 2000, only two teachers had been at the school for longer than a term.

Notes made by David Burns during a review of Chalgrove Primary said: "Teachers threatened - not allowed to talk to any members of staff - demoralized - harassed. Aggressive management style - threatening. Teacher not allowed to have day off for scan. Bullying style, blame culture from head teacher."

The teacher having the scan was Margaret Menzies.

Doug McAvoy, NUT general secretary, said: "The court's decision and the size of the award is a clear and strong message to local authorities and senior managers in our schools.

"Bullying and intimidation of members of the NUT will not be tolerated. Ms Menzies was harassed and undermined in a concerted campaign by a head teacher."

She went on long-term sick leave in January 2001 and was granted retirement on health grounds in September of that year.

Ms Hughes resigned from the school in July 2001.

A Barnet Borough Council spokesman said: "This award relates to events that took place several years ago and the school has been under a new head teacher since 2001.

"Much progress has been made and the school recently received an Ofsted report which commented favourably on the high quality of its leadership and management."

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