Page last updated at 14:09 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 15:09 UK

Dinner lady sacking sparks debate

Boys play fighting
Who needs to be told about playground incidents?

The case of a dinner lady who was sacked after telling parents their daughter had been bullied has sparked a debate on school confidentiality.

Carol Hill, who worked at Great Tey Primary School near Colchester in Essex, was said to have broken rules on confidentiality.

She had stepped in when she saw a seven-year-old girl being whipped with a skipping rope after being tied to a fence.

Who was right?


There is nothing wrong with a dinner lady speaking to the parents of a child who has had an accident.

Every school has a health and safety policy, every school has a bullying policy. Part of that is an accident book. If something happens in school, schools have, by law, to write it in that book and to inform parents.

Schools are expected to draw up their own policies on confidentiality
This should take into account the Human Rights Act, the Freedom of Information Act and the Data Protection Act
The Human Rights Act protects a person's right to respect for their "private and family life, home and correspondence", unless this is overridden by the "public interest"'

The parents had a right to be told. Confidentiality has to be respected. It would not be right for a member of staff to go and speak to other parents about your child but in this case the woman was speaking about their child so there is no big issue.

This child was badly damaged, other children may well be. Parents are not being told and because this person was kind enough to ask about the child, this has cost her her career.

The point is parents should know the truth.


I'm not going to talk about this case, but if a person sees something going on and thinks that the truth of the matter has not been properly reported then there are processes and procedures that that person can follow in school - whistle blowing.

People working in schools have to respect the confidentiality of the school. This is not an isolated incident, it happens.

If you are working in the school staff it's very tempting for people who have seen something happening in the playground, meal supervisors perhaps in particular, to tell that story out in the community. That is a difficulty for the management of a school.

If this was a serious case of bullying, then it has to be taken very seriously.

However, we don't know that. I can think of numerous incidents in schools of games which got out of hand perhaps. It has to be dealt with by the school.

Rather than getting in a conversation about the incident, the person should have said "I can't comment on this, please go into school and make your feelings known" and that makes sure the incident gets dealt with properly.

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