Page last updated at 18:34 GMT, Thursday, 19 March 2009

Teacher awarded 400,000 damages

A teacher who left her job because of stress and allegations of racism has been awarded 400,000 in damages.

Erica Connor, 57, a former teacher at New Monument Primary School in Woking, won her action against Surrey County Council at the High Court on Thursday.

A judge awarded Miss Connor 407,781 for psychiatric injury suffered and loss of income, ruling that the council had breached its duty of care to her.

Miss Connor said she was "thrilled that justice had prevailed".

"This was a non-denominational state school and I was subjected to dreadful pressures from a small group of individuals without the support I would have expected from Surrey County Council," she said.

"I finally feel vindicated in terms of the accusations of racism and Islamophobia against myself - accusations which attacked the core of my being and my values," she said.

'Torn apart'

The court heard how Miss Connor, from Esher in Surrey, joined the school, which has mainly Muslim pupils, as deputy head in September 1994, but left in September 2005 due to stress.

Giving the background to the case, Judge John Leighton Williams QC said that until 2003 the school had done very well under her leadership.

However from late 2003 to the summer of 2005 he said the governing body had become dysfunctional due to the behaviour of two members, Paul Martin, and Mumtaz Saleem.

"They sought to monopolise governing body meetings with a view to imposing their own agenda, regardless of the interests of the school," Judge Williams said.

"That agenda was, at the very least, to introduce an increasing role for the Muslim religion in New Monument School.

"This behaviour had the effect of tearing apart the governing body and, together with the poor response by the defendants, caused two years of stress leading to the need for early retirement in the claimant," he added.

The court head Miss Connor remained depressed two-and-a-half years after leaving the school, but had recently started doing unpaid voluntary work.

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