A 60-year-old prep school teacher has won a £140,000 age discrimination payout after parents demanded she retrain.
Now 61, Sue Allington, who has A-levels but not a degree, had worked at Rose Hill School in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, for almost two decades when she was asked to gain further qualifications. Ms Allington started as a games teacher in 2002 then delivered subjects including maths to Year 2 pupils from 2012. She was deemed an “excellent teacher” and “the best person for the job”. However, in 2018 three parents complained that she lacked formal training.
The school asked Ms Allington to complete an undergraduate degree, or face demotion from teacher to teaching assistant with a resulting 40 per cent pay cut. Ms Allington refused, saying she could not be expected to complete a degree when she was due to retire in just five years. She was sacked in August 2019 and took the school to an employment tribunal over age discrimination and unfair dismissal. The school claimed that it was struggling to meet the “ever-increasing levels of parental expectation” and faced “fierce competition” with other schools to attract and retain pupils. However, the employment tribunal judge concluded that Ms Allington was unfairly dismissed, did suffer age discrimination, and should be awarded £141,334 in compensation.
Judge Ian Truscott QC said: “Ms Allington was put at a disadvantage compared to others [because] she would not enjoy the benefit of the new qualification until close to retirement. “It seemed obvious that people between 60 and 65 are less likely to enrol in undergraduate courses compared to younger age groups. There is no obligation on the school for teachers to have qualified teacher status or equivalent. The school did not show that it had undertaken even the basic research to conclude that having all qualified teachers would maintain a competitive edge or that it would meet ever-increasing parental expectation.”
Further comment was made, “The school did not show any parents left due to unqualified teachers, or that pupils left in Year 2 as a result of Ms Allington being an unqualified teacher, or evidence of prospective pupils going elsewhere due to the presence of two unqualified teachers out of 77 teachers.”