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Gagging orders on teachers

(15 Posts)
barnetparent Fri 13-Sep-19 16:54:11

Daughter has just finished primary school. We had a new Head start 3 years ago. It's 2 form entry. In just 3 years 25 teachers and staff have left!!
I have since learned that at least 3 of them have been forced to sign a 'gagging' order in order to receive an agreed settlement figure.

It should be of immense concern to every parent, because apart from costing schools unnecessary money, a gagging order can surely only be used when the creator of said gagging order does NOT want certain information made public, and by default, such information must be damaging to the school or the head!

Additionally, such use of gagging orders could allow unscrupulous senior staff in schools to cover up, and I have to say ultimately the loss is suffered by parents and pupils because any settlement comes out of school funds.

Gagging Orders have no place in schools!

This topic was recently brought up at a recent NASUWT conference.

Many ex parents including ourselves have had run-in with the head and lets just say are hearts sank after that meeting as we felt we were being lied to and we were told the incident we knew for sure happened (many parents and pupils told gave us the same report), did not happen at all.

Since that time we know of staff who have been dismissed/resigned and forced to sign gagging orders. Apparently there were more ex-staff in the same boat.

OP’s posts: |
Witchend Fri 13-Sep-19 17:01:56

Sounds like a lot of gossip.

It's very hard to dismiss staff except for safeguarding issues, so if staff are being dismissed they're not exactly going to be shouting from the rooftops about the real reason.

StockTakeFucks Fri 13-Sep-19 17:22:59

That kind of high staff turnover is not good,regardless of reasons or gagging orders.

Fuzzyspringroll Fri 13-Sep-19 18:46:14

I've only ever worked at one school where someone had to sign such an agreement. I didn't stay long at the school and felt the atmosphere was terrible. It's something that makes me feel very uneasy because I understand that no school wants bad publicity but surely a non-disclosure agreement is just going to make people suspicious that the school is hiding something. However, Ofsted have given it a "good", so they don't seem to have gotten same impression.

admission Fri 13-Sep-19 18:57:37

There is a reality that any new headteacher usually means that there will be some turnover of staff over the next 12 to 18 months just as in any other work place. However the turnover in staff you report is high for the size of the school - in effect you have 14 full time equivalent teachers, so a loss of 25 staff is considerable.
Whilst I understand your concern over gagging orders it has to be looked at from both sides. There is a very clear defined pathway for school staff to whistle-blow if they do not believe they are being listened to at school level, so I am not sure that this is a gagging order that is stopping ex-staff from speaking out where there are real issues. From personal experience where school staff have left under difficult circumstances there has been a prevalent culture of believing that they could say anything they wanted on social media etc about the school and school staff. I know that in those circumstances that, as part of any settlement, they had to agree not to say anything on social media and other communication channels that was derogative about the school and school staff. I do not see that as a gagging order in the sense you are applying it.
If the school really are putting in place gagging orders to stop any conversation about what has happened in the school then that is wrong and staff need to take appropriate whistle blowing action with the Local Authority.

fedup21 Fri 13-Sep-19 19:04:14

It's very hard to dismiss staff except for safeguarding issues

It has been remarkably easy for heads to get rid of staff in local schools recently. Threaten them with capability. Tell them that they will be on a pathway to weekly observations and an improvement plan unless they sign something and leave today.

I know of at least 5 people this has happened to in different schools. Always older (expensive!) and people that SLT have tormented into thinking they are useless so are pretty broken by the time they get to this stage.

PuffHuffle5 Fri 13-Sep-19 19:14:17

Daughter has just finished primary school. We had a new Head start 3 years ago. It's 2 form entry. In just 3 years 25 teachers and staff have left!!

Not that I had to sign any kind of ‘gagging order’ or know anyone who has, but I left a school like this along with lots of other staff a few years ago - it was a shit place to work because the headteacher was a dick and expectations for progress/attainment and workload were beyond ridiculous - the teachers I worked with were fab and I think most just realised they would be appreciated more elsewhere and could have it a lot better. Once one person has had enough and leaves things can quickly spiral. In your case, new heads can easily rustle feathers, it’s not uncommon for a lot of staff to go when a new head arrives. As a pp poster said, it sounds like a lot of gossiping is going on.

Lanaa Fri 13-Sep-19 19:20:20

It will be a compromise agreement not a gagging order. They're incredibly common in schools unfortunately.

Berthatydfil Fri 13-Sep-19 19:27:39

These are probably compromise agreements to facilitate staff leaving. They get an (usually small) pay off an agreed reference and can’t go to a tribunal.
They can be cost effective compared to having someone suspended for months, supply costs the costs of internal hearings appeals etc and possibly tribunals.

They are commonly used where capability or disciplinary processes are in hand, excessive sickness or relationships have broken down and can allow all parties to move on, so it’s just not beneficial for the school as the staff can also avoid the mental toll of any processes.

Nobody would have been forced to sign these though.

ChicCroissant Fri 13-Sep-19 19:34:17

Not gagging orders at all, the staff will have signed them voluntarily. Common in all kinds of organisations, that kind of agreement works both ways and is usually accompanied by an agreed reference for the person leaving.

Bobbiepin Fri 13-Sep-19 19:42:08

I disagree with PP, some are definitely gagging orders. I know of more than one teacher who has been forced to sign a legal non disclosure agreement in order to receive their redundancy pay. Keep in mind that these people have been bullied into taking redundancy, being given unattainable targets to complete like being responsible for the improvement of many underperforming teachers, doubling the success rates of GCSE exams or writing policies that would typically be done by whole departments, not one person. Those teachers would be in a position to whistleblower but are threatened with the NDA and a complete destruction of their reputation.

It is underhand, illegal, immoral and it happens, more frequently than you'd ever know. If you have the choice to move your DC, I would.

prh47bridge Fri 13-Sep-19 20:34:46

A non-disclosure agreement cannot stop the employee from whistle blowing. Any agreement that purports to do so is ineffective. So no, these are not gagging orders and they are definitely not illegal. And I don't personally think it is underhand or immoral to stop departing teachers making derogatory comments about the school or staff on social media, for example. The NDAs in such agreements are usually mutual in my experience so they also stop the school from making derogatory comments about the departing staff.

Bobbiepin Sat 14-Sep-19 05:37:00

IME there have been clauses in there that prevent the teachers talking at all. I don't fully understand but these teachers have told me that whistle blowing was no longer an option if they wanted to continue being able to pay their bills unfortunately. I don't understand the ins and outs having not read the contract but it is solely there to prevent the full truth of the school's illegal and immoral activity coming out. Obviously I can't go into detail but think misuse of school funds, not adhering to EHCPs and bullying/discrimination.

ChicCroissant Sat 14-Sep-19 10:04:43

They are making a personal choice not to whistleblow there Bobbiepin it's not part of the agreement - they may be concerned as to how they would be viewed by other employers if they did speak out or have any number of personal reasons why they wouldn't want to, but it's not likely to be down to something they voluntarily signed.

As prh47 said, whistleblowers have legal protection and compromise/settlement agreements can't stop whistleblowing at all.

Bobbiepin Sat 14-Sep-19 11:48:43

@ChicCroissant you may be right there, I've seen them destroy reputations and good teachers have had to change careers based on much less so it's an understandable choice. I know the condition of getting their money was signing the NDA, I must have been confused about the impact of whistleblowing, although saying that, this particular trust have broken employment law countless times so it wouldn't surprise me if they managed to sneak it in!

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