Black teacher wins £460,000 for racial discrimination at London school

Black teacher wins £460,000 for racial discrimination after she was stripped of senior role and replaced with less-qualified white colleague

  • Catherine Burton-York won more than £460,000 in a race discrimination case
  • Douay Martyrs School’s head teacher put year heads in a selection process
  • Burton-York lost her role to a ‘less experienced and qualified’ white staff member
  • A judge ruled the London teacher had suffered race discrimination harassment

A black teacher has won over £460,000 in a race discrimination case after she was stripped of her senior role and replaced by a less experienced and less qualified white colleague.

Catherine Burton-York was to ‘relinquish’ her Head of Year post at Douay Martyrs Catholic Secondary School in Ickenham, London, where she had worked at for more than a decade.

A tribunal heard that when the experienced teacher refused, head teacher Anthony Cornish put her and the school’s four other head of years through a competitive selection process to secure their jobs.

However, Mrs Burton-York, who is black Afro-Caribbean, was the only one who failed the process and a ‘less experienced and less qualified’ white staff member was later appointed in the role.

The school later carried out ‘calculated’ tactics to ruin its relationship with Mrs Burton-York and she resigned.

Now, she has won a staggering £462,973 after successfully suing Douay Martyrs for race discrimination harassment as well as unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal.

Catherine Burton-York was awarded more than £460,000 at an employment tribunal after she lost her job at as a head of year at Duoay Martyrs Catholic Secondary School, London, to a a ‘less experienced and less qualified’ white staff member

The tribunal in Watford heard Mrs Burton-York, a geography teacher, joined Douay Martyrs in 2004 and was regarded as ‘excellent’ and ‘outstanding’ by her fellow teachers.

In May 2016 Mr Cornish asked Mrs Burton-York – then Head of Year 11 – if she would ‘stand down’ from her duties the following academic year when she was due to move to be Head of Year Seven.

Mrs Burton-York turned Mr Cornish down. However, in late 2016 a ‘restructure’ of the school was announced and the five year heads were told they needed to re-apply for their roles.

One candidate who was eligible for early retirement decided not to re-apply, so there were four candidates including Mrs Burton-York for five roles.

The tribunal heard that during the selection process, answers were weighted differently for different applicants, there was a lack of notes for meetings, and discussions weren’t had about what would constitute a pass or fail.

In March 2017 Mrs Burton-York was told she had failed and would not be appointed as a head of year even though two posts remained available.

A tribunal report said: ‘She was not given any written feedback about what had led to her being unsuccessful.

‘She was not given the opportunity to work on whatever areas of weakness had been perceived and to reapply again for the two remaining vacant heads of year post.

‘She was not told she could appeal.’

Two ‘less experienced and less qualified’ white staff members were appointed as Heads of Year.

The tribunal also heard that when Mrs Burton-York asked colleagues for references for job applications at schools elsewhere, co-workers gave her glowing references while Mr Cornish provided critical ones.

Following a meeting in November 2018, Mrs Burton-York went off work sick and never returned, eventually resigning around 12 months later when the school stopped corresponding with her.

Watford Employment Tribunal (pictured) ruled that the school could not prove it didn’t discriminate against Mrs Burton-York because of race

She said: ‘Regrettably, I am of the view I have been treated less favourably to my comparators because of my protected characteristic and I have been discriminated through a series of adverse continuing acts (intentionally or not) throughout my employment at The Douay Martyrs Catholic Secondary School.

‘I also believe l have been victimised and bullied. This has had far reaching impacts on my mental and physical health.’

Employment Judge Patrick Quill ruled that her claims against Diocese of Westminster Academy Trust, which runs the school, succeeded.

Judge Quill said the school could not prove it didn’t discriminate against her because of her race.

Judge Quill said: ‘She was treated less favourably than other Heads of Year, who are of a different race than her.

‘The school has not given accurate explanations for several matters, including the lack of transparency about the fact it told her she could not reapply if she was not appointed the first time around.

‘Not allowing her to be part of the second round of recruitment would lead to a situation where she was not directly compared to the eventually successful round two candidates.

‘[The school] has not persuaded us that the decision was not related to race, and has not persuaded us that it was in no sense whatsoever because of race.’

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