Governors defy court order as head is sacked

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Governors at a grant-maintained school in Essex have sacked their head teacher, ignoring a High Court ruling and offering the head no chance to plead her case.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, believes the governing body of Belfairs Community College has acted illegally in dismissing Marie Younie without a proper hearing and despite an injunction preventing its disciplinary committee from meeting.

He has written to Gillian Shephard, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, detailing his concerns, and has applied for a further injunction to block the dismissal. The governors should be held in contempt of court, he claims.

"They have clearly ridden rough-shod over official procedures," he said. "I have never come across a case like it. It is quite extraordinary that a governing body should behave in this manner, faced by a court order."

Ms Younie was suspended last year while at home convalescing from a major operation. She believes a group of governors and senior teachers took exception to her ideas for raising expectations and achievement in a school that had been performing poorly.

With the disciplinary committee due to meet on 21 September, the NAHT obtained an injunction on the grounds that the panel was improperly constituted.

The judge ordered that submissions be made early this month, but on 22 September Ms Younie was told she had already been dismissed. The disciplinary panel had been reconstituted and had gone ahead, despite the court order.

Parents were informed of the dismissal in a statement from Elizabeth Mashford, chairman of the governors. According to Mr Hart, the statement, which details the complaints against Ms Younie, is "highly unorthodox and prejudicial". Ms Younie has had no chance to present her case or to appeal.

Charles Latham, a governor, said the governing body had acted on legal advice but would not comment further.