Norwich Initiative Steiner School

Confidentiality Clause


We were contacted by Sandie Tolhurst, administrator of the Norwich Initiative Steiner School, in April 2011, requesting that we publish her rebuttal of elements of the court judgement. She had also been to numerous other websites offering her own version of the events.

It transpired that a ‘confidentiality clause’ had been introduced to the settlement proceedings that applied only to the ‘claimant’, i.e. Jo Sawfoot and her family, but not to the school.

3.2 The Claimant shall not whether directly or indirectly, make, publish or otherwise communicate or cause to be made, published or otherwise communicated any disparaging, derogatory or critical statements, whether in writing or otherwise, concerning the Respondent, its trustees, officers or employees.

That is why Sandie Tolhurst was able to put an alternative view of events on various websites in spite of the fact that the Employment Tribunal’s judgement was binding, and why the Sawfoots are legally prevented from replying.

Having heard both sides of this argument, the judge said Ms Sawfoot had been a whistleblower and concluded that the school had made misrepresentations to Social Services.

Below is Sandie Tolhurst’s statement, followed by an anonymous response to her claims.  You can download the Court Case Documents at the bottom of this page.

Sandie Tolhurst’s statement

I deny the allegation in the employment tribunal judgement that I misled Social Services.

The allegation arises over a situation in early summer 2009 where a staff member carried a child out of a room and was bitten by the child as she did so. When this was reported by telephone to social services, a written incident note was also sent, stating the same.

However, when the mother of the child requested from Social Services a transcript of the telephone conversation a month later, a summary note was produced, which stated I had informed them that “the member of staff had had to restrain the child after an incident of biting”.

At an Employment Tribunal 2 years on, the panel decided that this amounted to my misleading social services. I was not questioned in Court about the inconsistency; I had not even myself noticed that the Social Services note incorrectly reflected the conversation. Social Services were not asked to verify if the note were correct, they were not asked if they thought they had been misled and nor were they requested a copy of the original comprehensive notes which the Local Area Designated Officer (LADO) assured me were taken. In fact Social Services were not involved in the Employment Tribunal at all, and yet the panel were able to cast an unchallenged allegation that “social services were misled”.

My understanding is that had this been a criminal court, questions would have had to been asked, such as: “If Social Services were misled, did Sandie Tolhurst intend to mislead them or was it a misunderstanding?” and “Did Social Services produce an accurate summary of the conversation, or is the summary in itself misleading?” and “Why would Sandie Tolhurst say one thing on phone and send a contradictory written note to the same person at Social Services on the same day?”

The exact answers to all the above questions will probably never be known, as the full transcript of the conversation I had with Social Services is not with the case records and the member of staff I spoke with has long since left Social Services. I believe I provided consistent information to Social Services. I did not at any time state that the child was removed from the room because she was biting; I read from the incident report as I spoke to Social Services and the Employment Tribunal accepted as being true the incident report. I do not believe Social Services were misled. I do believe that the telephone conversation was summarised incorrectly; that it was a mistake, a human error.

Employment Tribunals do not need to prove ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ that something did or did not happen, as would be the case in a criminal court. They can decide which evidence they ‘prefer’ on the basis of what they have in front of them, even if this is not validated as being correct.

Norwich Steiner School took a business decision not to appeal and instead settled out of court. Those who are interested in this case should therefore be aware that there are a number of unjust and incorrect judgements resulting from this tribunal that remain unchallenged.

Anonymous Response

With reference to the above by Sandie Tolhurst the court facts on ‘misrepresentations’ are quoted below and readers can form their own opinions on facts versus fantasy.

NB The unlawful physical restraint happened on 11 May 2009 and Sandie Tolhurst decided to report it to LADO on 17 June 2009.

Quotes from the Judgment :

1. ”When this was reported by telephone to social services, a written incident note was also sent, stating the same.”

Page 35 Paragraph 160 (part)

”On 17 June 2009 Miss Tolhurst rang the Local Authority Designated Officer, (LADO). We were referred to a note of that conversation taken by the person she spoke to, this records Miss Tolhurst informing her that the child had to be restrained after an episode of biting and aggression from the child. This is a misrepresentation of the incident. This is apparent from Miss Letts’ version of events as quoted above; which describes the biting taking place after the restraint by Miss Letts.”

2. The judgment also deals with other misrepresentations made at the same time by Ms Tolhurst to LADO.

Page 48 Paragraph 41 (c)

”Does this amount to detriment as a result of having made a protected disclosure contrary to Section 47b of the Employment Rights Act 1996?”

”Yes: misrepresenting the nature of the incident to an outside authority, seeking to give the impression that the matter had been properly investigated and reported whereas in fact it had not, raising concerns about the professionalism and performance of a teacher without having addressed those issues to the teacher in question are all matters that would be seen by the Claimant as placing her at a disadvantage once she became aware of them, as she did in due course.”

3. In relation to the incident report referred to please note also the Judgment states

Page 18 Paragraph 54

”There were a number of significant date errors in the respondent’s documents that suggested to us that on occasions, people had retrospectively created documents and back dated them to suggest that they were contemporaneous. For example, the date changes and grammar used by Miss Letts in her note in the incident book regarding the events of 11 May and her note of her subsequent telephone conversation with Ms. Sawfoot.”

4. In relation to the court and their view on whether Ms. Tolhurst misleads; further refer to:

Page 18 Paragraph 53 (part)

”Mr X, Mrs. X and Miss Tolhurst in one important respect, gave us cause to doubt them. That was the assertion by each of them that they had not known Ms Sawfoot was going to make a complaint about the way her daughter had been treated.”

1861-2011 : 150 years of Rudolf Steiner

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