A whistleblower teacher, who was suspended for secretly recording his head teacher allegedly admitting that she covered up poor attendance figures, has secured a full employment tribunal hearing in Birmingham.
Waqas Sarwar has brought a compensation claim against St Edmund Campion Catholic School in Sutton Road, Erdington.
At a pre-hearing review the science teacher won the right to go ahead with a compensation claim against the school for detriment.
The hearing heard that there are currently six cases involving the school at the Birmingham Employment Tribunal.
Mr Sarwar’s case relates to recordings of a staff meeting that were passed on to Ofsted, Birmingham City Council’s education department, governors of the school and the Birmingham Post earlier this year.
Mr Sarwar recorded the head of St Edmund Campion, Philomena Steele, told staff she had “fudged the issue” with Ofsted inspectors when 150 pupils were not registered on the day of a spot-check.
She said the school automatically would have been given a Notice To Improve if the watchdog had found out.
The remarks to 90 members of staff followed a surprise two-day inspection at the end of March when the school was given just 20 minutes notice that Ofsted officials were on their way.
Mr Sarwar and another member of staff were suspended from their posts for breach of confidentiality.
Andrew McGrath, representing Mr Sarwar, said: “This is a whistleblowing case with a public interest element and the label of confidentiality is meaningless in my submission.”
He added that Mr Sarwar had become concerned about the conduct of the head teacher the day before he made the recording.
He alleges that he was told to fill in a register of pupils who were not in the class by the head teacher herself.
And in a witness statement, part of which was read out during the hearing, Mr Sarwar said: “I believed that the head had conducted serious misconduct that would bring the school into disrepute.
“I was shocked and appalled that she had openly said that she had intentionally hid information.”
Edward Beaver, representing the school, applied to tribunal judge John van Gelder to strike out Mr Sarwar’s claim.
But Mr van Gelder dismissed the strike out application from the school and added: “Mr Sarwar has made a serious allegation against the head of the school in which she hid information from an Ofsted inspector about how many pupils were absent from school.
“There is also criticism by Mr Sarwar of the school head about keeping a register recording attendances.”
The school head is among witnesses expected to attend the full hearing next year.
A spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council said they were unable to comment on the case as proceedings were active.
St Edmund Campion was previously investigated over claims that unruly pupils were shipped out to neighbouring catholic schools during a 2009 inspection.
Among the claims that Mrs Steele made to staff at the meeting was that the school had been cleared over these earlier allegations and given a clean bill of health by Ofsted.
The Post revealed the full contents of the recording earlier this year.
Parts of the recording were read out at last week’s hearing as part of Mr Sarwar’s witness statement.
On the recording the head teacher is heard to say that the school was under pressure to improve attendance figures.
Mrs Steele can be heard to say: “I did not like to share with them how many students were not registered yesterday.
“I think it was 140, 150 students were not marked as present.
“I did manage to hide that from the inspector but he did keep hovering and asking for the figures.
“It’s a legal requirement and yesterday I was fudging the issue with him.
“If he had got that they weren’t registered, it’s immediate notice because it’s a legislative thing that you have to get right.”
Staff said Mrs Steele was referring to a “Notice to Improve.”
The school was previously given a Notice to Improve – a status for schools which are failing but where inspectors feel there is capacity for improvements – in May 2008. The notice was lifted in June 2009.