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Education worker bullied for raising health and safety concerns

Mary (not their real name) worked at an independent school for children with special educational needs.

She was only there only a short time when she started having a number of health and safety concerns about the school. Mary never received appropriate any health and safety training from the organisation, despite being designated the lead first aider. Mary repeatedly asked when the training was to take place, since she was Lead First Aider and concerned that she would be able to assist neither pupils nor staff in the event of an emergency. In addition to the lack of training Mary was also told to dispense medication to the students without parental permission, without informing patients or having any form of training to do this. Parental permission sheets had long expired (annual renewal was not sought by the school) and frequently contained either wrong, or no, information to enable parental notification.

Mary was also concerned about fire safety; during her time there the fire alarms were never tested (despite this being a legal requirement) and fire exits were often blocked causing a danger to the staff and students.

Mary raised her concerns a number of times with various staff members including the Head, Bursar and Chair of Governors. Mary was ostracised in the organisation, bullied by the staff and her concerns were never addressed. Mary felt her position was untenable and resigned to work her notice period. Her employer, however, told her to leave before her notice period was over.

Protect advised Mary of her rights under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998 in case she wished to challenge her dismissal or bring a claim against her employer. We also advised that Mary could escalate her concerns to the Department for Education. Mary now awaits a formal investigation by the school with an independent panel.