School loses appeal in gay headteacher constructive dismissal decision

The headteacher met the two 17-year-olds on the dating app Grindr
Jonathan Brady/PA Archive/PA Images

A school in Wales has had its appeal dismissed in a case where a gay headteacher claimed for constructive dismissal.

Matthew Aplin, who was head at Tywyn Primary in Neath Port Talbot, had arranged to meet two 17-year-olds via the Grindr dating app in August 2015. It was reported to police and social services that the three had had sex.

The local authority set up a Professional Abuse Strategy Meeting, which concluded that no criminal offence had been committed and no child protection issue arose.

However, school governors decided to bring disciplinary proceedings, in order to establish whether the head’s conduct had brought the reputation of the school into disrepute, whether it impacted on his ability to perform his role, and whether it was “so gross an error of judgment as to undermine the school’s confidence in him and, therefore, to call into question his continuation in the role”.

At the disciplinary hearing in May 2016 it was decided that Aplin should be sacked immediately, despite having been a teacher for 19 years. He appealed their decision but resigned before the appeal was heard. He then lodged a tribunal claim for constructive dismissal.

According to the original tribunal, it was noted that there were numerous procedural errors which amounted to a breach of the implied term of trust and confidence in the investigation and the disciplinary hearing. However, the school appealed this at the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

The judge ruled that he was unfairly and constructively dismissed and had been discriminated against by the investigating officer at the school because he was gay.

The school governors appealed. Aplin also cross-appealed, claiming the position of the governors had not been put under the same scrutiny for discrimination as the investigating officer.

The original tribunal heard how, at the disciplinary meeting, Aplin and his union representative put forward an argument that his actions were part of his private life and that the investigating officer’s case as “biased and homophobic”.

A judge at the Employment Appeal Tribunal has now ordered the same tribunal panel to reconsider whether the governing body also discriminated against Aplin. The school’s appeal was dismissed, with Judge Shanks upholding the tribunal’s finding that that the governors “effectively abdicated their roles”, allowing the investigating officer to take decisions “by proxy”.

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