Headteacher awarded £400,000 damages by Court of Appeal over ‘Islamophobia’ accusations

A headmistress has been awarded more than £400,000 in damages after she was forced to quit her job because she had been accused of Islamophobia.

The Court of Appeal ruled Erica Connor, the head of New Monument primary school in Woking, Surrey, was entitled to £407,700 in damages because she was forced from her job after two Muslim governors tried to give Islam a greater presence in the school.

The High Court had ruled in March last year that Surrey County Council had failed in its duty to protect Connor and to intervene when the actions of the governors caused problems, and she was awarded the damages.

But the council appealed against the ruling and said it was not liable in law and had not been negligent in dealing with the problem, the Times reported.

But the Court of Appeal has now backed up the decision of the High Court.

Connor, who was promoted to headmistress in 1998, suffered psychiatric damage and had to stop work in 2005, and then retired a year later on grounds of ill health.

The governors asked Connor to investigate anti-Muslim comments allegedly made by staff, but an official review found no evidence of deliberate racism or religious bias.

The High Court found that the two governors had an agenda to increase the role of the Muslim religion in the school.

When one of the governors, Paul Martin, was later removed from the board in 2005, a petition was circulated calling for Connor’s removal from the school.

Lord Justice Sedley said: “Surrey County Council found itself faced with the unenviable task of responding in an equitable fashion to an inequitable campaign designed to capture a secular state school for a particular faith which happened to be that of a majority of the families whose children attended the school.

“The picture that emerges from the careful and thorough [High Court] judgment is of a local education authority which had allowed itself to be intimidated by an aggressively conducted campaign to subvert the school’s legal status, a campaign which was plainly destabilising the school and placing the headteacher under intolerable pressure.”

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