Elmore v Darland High School
In Elmore v Darland High School, Ms Elmore was a maths teacher. Maths had been identified by inspectors as being a problem area in the school and Ms Elmore’s class had performed poorly. Observations of her lessons had led to concerns about her performance and a formal procedure was put in place based around a series of lesson observations. The standard required by the employer was that, of eight lessons observed, at least one would have to be rated as ‘good’. In the event, five were rated as adequate, three were inadequate and none achieved the required ‘good’ rating. Following a formal meeting she was dismissed and her internal appeal was rejected.
At her claim for unfair dismissal she argued that it was not fair to dismiss her for poor performance when the employer’s own procedures had assessed her lessons as ‘adequate’. The Employment Tribunal rejected this argument. The employer was entitled to set the standard at which work needed to be done and for such a key subject as maths, which had been identified as an area of concern for the school, it was reasonable to require at least one of the observed lessons to be rated as ‘good’. The Tribunal also rejected an argument that the internal appeal panel had failed to give a reasoned decision when it rejected Ms Elmore’s appeal. The Tribunal inferred that the appeal panel had simply accepted the findings of the original hearing.
It was this last issue that reached the Employment Appeal Tribunal. Ms Elmore argued that for an internal appeal hearing to be fair, it was necessary for it to result in a reasoned conclusion rather than just a statement that the original decision was being upheld. At the very least, a member of the appeal panel should have given evidence before the Employment Tribunal so that the fairness of the appeal hearing and its conclusions could be assessed.
The EAT expressed some concern that a letter which effectively brought to an end a long-standing teaching career should be expressed with such a lack of detail. However, while the employee was entitled to a fair appeal hearing, the appeal in this case had not been presented with any new evidence or arguments, it had simply been asked to reconsider the issues dealt with in the original hearing. In those circumstances, the fact that the letter dismissing the appeal did not give detailed reasons as to why the appeal was being rejected was not in itself sufficient to render the dismissal unfair – and nor was the failure of the employer to call any of the appeal panel as witnesses in the Employment Tribunal. The finding of a fair dismissal was upheld.