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A Blackburn teacher has won his employment tribunal claim for wrongful and unfair dismissal after a pupil lied about being locked in a cupboard as punishment for unruly behaviour.
In January 2020 Mr Basit was teaching maths to a Year 9 class at Pleckgate High School when he asked “pupil A”, who was disengaged and appeared to be dozing, to stand at the back of the classroom.
There was a large cupboard at the back and Basit made a comment to pupil A, a boy with hundreds of behaviour complaints against him and who enjoyed playing the “class clown”, which resulted in pupil A getting into the cupboard. He exited it a short time later.
Unbeknown to Basit, pupil A and two others then made a complaint to the headteacher. Pupil B said Basit had forced A into the cupboard and statements were taken separately from each pupil. The three statements alleged a number of potentially unprofessional incidents, including Basit throwing a book, in class against the claimant relating to the afternoon in question and other occasions.
The following Monday, Basit, who denied any wrongdoing, was suspended for unprofessional conduct, for instructing “a pupil to get into a cupboard for a prolonged period of time, in the presence of peers during a lesson”. This, said the suspension letter, brought into question the trust and confidence placed in him as an employee at the school.
[pullquote]The HR function should avoid straying into areas of culpability and it was unreasonable in this instance to do so” – Judge Ord[/pullquote]Pupil A claimed he was in the cupboard for five minutes and had been locked in, but Basit said he was only in there for about 10 to 15 seconds. Furthermore the cupboard door did not properly shut, nor was there a key.
Basit, who had been repeatedly commended for his behavioural management, told the deputy head that the incident was meant as a joke. He wrote “I asked [A] to go into the cupboard as a joke... I didn’t think he’d actually go in, but he did. I thought I’d entertain it but took him out as it was clear he wasn’t leaving himself… I have a running gag that the cupboard is haunted just to egg on the low-set pupils into working.”
An investigation by Education Partnership Trust, which runs the school, found that on the balance of probabilities the pupil entered a cupboard, the impact of which had the potential to have a detriment to a pupil’s emotional wellbeing.
“The incident brings