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Wednesday, 13 September, 2000, 11:51 GMT 12:51 UK
Head wins part-time work ruling
head teacher in assembly
Female heads: "Too valuable to lose" says union
A head teacher was unlawfully discriminated against by being forced to work a five-day week when she returned from maternity leave, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Rebekah Marshall, head of Langtree Community Primary School in Torrington, Devon, went to the tribunal after governors refused her request for a jobshare to ease her transition back to work.

The tribunal has asked the governors and Devon Local Education Authority to consult her within 28 days on what to do next.

Her union, the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said the profession had been losing experienced women head teachers over the issue and could not afford to do so.

'Weaknesses'

In January, school inspectors had said Langtree had "serious weaknesses" and the council had felt it was important for the head to be there full time.

"The tribunal indicated the governing body should have not only considered jobshare arrangements but options for part-time working," the council said in a statement.

It was waiting for the full written judgement before deciding how to proceed.

"The county council is surprised that the NAHT wishes to argue that the functions of a headteacher can be carried out part-time.

"This seems to counter any campaign to acknowledge the stress on headteachers by arguing in effect that the job can be done part-time."

'It had to happen'

Mrs Marshall said she was "pleased and relieved" by the decision and looking forward to returning to the school.

Kerry George, an NAHT senior assistant secretary, said there was never any question of Mrs Marshall's capability, she was a very competent and experienced head.

The school was very small, and she had been teaching three days a week as well as carrying out her duties as head - which, ironically, might now become easier to manage because of the ruling.

"This is a case I knew would happen sooner or later but it needed to happen because we have lost women heads at various times<" MS George said.

"We have had other women who have come to us and asked for our help.

"They are not in much of an emotional state for a fight, usually, and they tend to say: 'The governors say no, the local education authority say no, OK I'll go.'

"Not only is that their career down the Swanee - and most women don't expect to give up their careers these days because they've had a baby, even in the Ministry of Defence.

"But also we've got a serious recruitment problem at headship level, we cannot afford to lose good, experienced heads because people are unimaginative about making working arrangements operate so they can have the time with their family."

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See also:

30 Jun 00 | Education
Women encouraged to lead schools
13 Feb 99 | Education
Women taking more top school jobs
30 Aug 00 | Education
Men shun primary teaching
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