A teaching assistant who won a £16,000 payout after being sacked over claims she used the F-word today said the victory was a hollow one as she had lost the job she loved.
Mother-of-two Paula Williams represented herself when she took Staffordshire County Council and the school that dismissed her to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal – and won.
The 45-year-old said: “I know nothing about the law but I know about the truth. It was make or break for me but I had to have my say and thank goodness I did. It was daunting picking up and running with my case after my union refused to take it any further but I had right on my side.”
Miss Williams, who will not be reinstated at Bridgtown Primary School in Cannock, added: “I can walk away with my head held high but it was a hollow victory because I lost the job I loved. That school had been my life for 20 years, first as a parent, then a voluntary worker and finally as a teaching assistant for the last 12 years. I would arrive early and leave late. Nothing was too much trouble for me. I did the costumes for stage performances, helped out at fetes and after school clubs.
“I would probably have been there until the day I died if this had not happened. I loved the work and I miss it terribly, especially the kids. I think of them having a good time at their proms and discos. I even missed the school centenary.”
Miss Williams, who lives with her partner of 26-years Peter Paggett in Foster Avenue, Hednesford, was called to a disciplinary hearing in October 2011 after a teacher claimed that she had used the F-word in the playground, although that person admitted it was out of the earshot of children. She denied the allegation.
Further claims were then made about ‘inappropriate’ images on Facebook of her dressed as a St Trinian’s Girl at a private birthday party and others at an office Christmas party.
Tribunal chairman David Ansti concluded the school failed to give her adequate guidelines on what language to use at work and failed to verify the allegations. He added that no computer policy had been breached.
Miss Williams, who is currently working as a volunteer with play rangers and a Chadsmoor childrens centre, concluded: “The money is irrelevant. This was about my reputation and now I can draw a line under it and get on with the rest of my life.” She added: “The only problem now is that my friends keep asking me for legal advice.”