After four incredibly long and painful months, the judgement for my case was finally passed on 27th March 2017. I was relieved and elated to find that the Birmingham Employment Tribunal had ruled in my favour for the Whistleblowing claim. This is a landmark victory, which I am incredibly proud of. Whistleblowing is not only difficult to prove in law, as you have to have show you had ‘reasonable belief’ you raised a concern in the public interest, I also achieved this as a litigant in person.
Judge Mary Cox found “ the Claimant was subjected to detriment by having her assignment terminated for making a protected disclosure.” “It was clear the claimant was raising something that could have been embarrassing to the school” (paragraph 53).
She also found “it should have been patently obvious to a trained teacher that the claimant was expressing her reservations and concerns about the adverse effect of seeing the video on 11 year old children” (paragraph 78). “She was not a trained teacher, she was not a safeguarding expert…she held a genuine and reasonable belief that the school was failing in its obligation to safeguard the children in its care” (paragraph 58).
“The decision to dismiss Miss. Bi was that she had raised a safeguarding concern and Mrs. Jones thought that the Miss. Bi was alleging the school was anti-Muslim” (paragraph 60). The tribunal found “Mrs. Jones’ [head teacher] evidence to be less than reliable” (paragraph 48). “Miss Bi referred to Mrs. Jones decision to terminate her assignment as a kneejerk reaction. We would not disagree with that description” (paragraph 53).
“It appears the academy only really took any action to investigate what the claimant had disclosed after she went to the press and Birmingham City Council became involved” (paragraph 59). “It was to the claimant’s detriment that an investigation did not take place before dismissing her” (paragraph 83).
During the course of the litigation process, I submitted Subject Access Requests to obtain my personal data held by the Academy. After many months of perseverance, I managed to have some key documents unredacted and as a result, discovered horrific allegations that were made about me. See below:
As a result of the new evidence, some of which came to light a few days before the full hearing was due to commence, I applied to add an additional detriment: that Heartlands academy passed defamatory, discriminatory and prejudiced information to Birmingham City Council alleging that I was tied to the Trojan Horse Affair. My application was permitted at the full hearing and it has now been decided that the judgement for the victimisation claim will be passed after the evidence for the additional detriment has been heard.
The tribunal found one of the reasons I was dismissed was because head teacher Glynis Jones, assumed I had accused the school of being anti-Muslim (I had done no such thing). In my closing submissions I made it clear that the assumption that I had accused the school of being anti-Muslim was formed as a result of my being a Muslim and raising a concern that an 18-rated video showing people jumping to their deaths during the 9/11 attack, was inappropriate for 11 year old pupils to watch. During my closing submissions, I also highlighted direct acts of discrimination that took place during the full hearing such as, the collective narrative of 10 witnesses that I was uncomfortable with the curriculum, which was code for saying I am uncomfortable with the curriculum because of my religion.
The tribunal asked whether the assumption that I accused the school of being anti-Muslim equated to direct discrimination on the grounds of religion, and concluded it did not. The tribunal also used hypothetical comparators of Jewish and Christian individuals in my situation and ruled that they would be treated in the same way if they raised a similar concern. However, I am of the strong belief that someone with my personal and professional background, who raised a similar concern, but who was not Muslim, would not have been treated in the same way.
I have now asked for a reconsideration on this point and will appeal in the Employment Appeals Tribunal if necessary.
Victory and Beyond
It’s difficult to accept that the entire situation has had a negative impact on my health and well-being. It will take a long time to recover from the horror and trauma this large Academy chain has put me through. Aside from the initial act of dismissing me, the Academy chain has bullied, intimidated, and threatened me (with cost threats) throughout litigation process. I plan to raise my case formally with the Government and am working hard with my MP to make this happen. The Department for Education (DfE) needs to take action against this Academy chain especially since the safeguarding of children continues to be at risk at the schools E-ACT is responsible for. Despite being shown multiple publications that proved watching suicide in the media increases the risk of copy-cat suicide while under oath on the witness stand, E-ACT’s National Lead for Safeguarding Elizabeth Browne, denied that this was a safeguarding concern. This Academy chain would not know a safeguarding concern if it punched them in the face.
In 2014, the academy chain was stripped of 10 schools due to being found inadequate by Ofsted and the DfE. In 2016, a leading teacher’s union held a conference to address the poor treatment E-ACT subjected it’s employees to. My case is part of a broader systemic problem with this Academy, and it’s about time the DfE took formal action.
I will continue to move the mountains to fight the remaining claims but aside from fighting in court, I’m currently in the second year of my PhD, for which I can find more time for now that I have won the bulk of my case. I am working on a few articles for publication within the area of my research, and am also planning to write a book about my experience with the working title From Classroom to Courtroom: My Journey as a Litigant in Person.