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Camden New Journal - COMMENT
Published: 26 November 2009
Christmas party spat teachers failed by school?

THE sacking of two teaching assistants by Carlton School in Kentish Town stirs up again a question that the public – in these times of political correctness – appear to be still uncertain about.
Essentially, it comes down to what extent professional men and women, in the public eye, are required to be role models.
We would wish to believe that the governors did not crudely act in a simple fit of morality, shocked that members of their staff could allow tempers to go beyond their control as they did at a Christmas party.
While they may have felt that the two women should have exerted more self control, presumably, they were more fundamentally concerned that their behaviour had brought the school into disrepute.
In other words, judging by their evidence before the employment tribunal, they held that their staff should recognise they are responsible for conducting themselves in an acceptable manner in public – and that in this instance the two women were beyond the pale.
Here we come to the degree of their misbehaviour, where it took place and, of course, the vexing question of the role model required of professional men and women.
If the teachers had had a fight outside the school gates, watched by children and parents, it would be hard to argue this was not an act of gross misconduct, leaving dismissal as possibly the only option.
However, in this instance, the trouble arose outside a Holborn hotel, far from the school. Moreover, it sounded like an argument that briefly got out of hand, caused little injury, leaving the police, probably sensibly, to take no action.
The basis of justice, accepted down the years by the public, is that the punishment should fit the crime.
If the sort of confrontation that arose between the two women were to occur among other members of the professions, as no doubt it does in the real world, would not the public be astonished to find that the culprits had been simply dismissed? Neither briefly suspended. Nor severely warned. But thrown out of their jobs and, in reality, thrown out of their careers.
In this case, we are entitled to ask whether the school chiefs went too far.
Counselled, perhaps, by anger, they may well have ended the careers of two women who, judging by the evidence before the tribunal, were, in all other ways, dedicated to the well-being of children – and, in this case, the most vulnerable of children.

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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