Primary school headteacher Shelly-Ann Malabver-Goulbourne has been awarded over £100,000 in compensation after being wrongfully dismissed for allegedly assaulting her three-year-old son.

The incident occurred at Northwold Primary School in Hackney, East London when Malabver-Goulbourne used two fingers to get her son’s attention as he played with hand sanitizer. The school’s safeguarding officer witnessed the interaction and filed a complaint, leading to her suspension and police involvement.

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Although the police deemed the action as “reasonable chastisement,” Malabver-Goulbourne was found guilty of gross misconduct and lost her job in May 2022. The Employment Tribunal, however, ruled the dismissal unfair, noting that the school’s code of conduct does not prohibit all physical contact between staff and pupils, and considering her dual role as a parent and teacher, such a rule would be challenging to uphold.

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The judge highlighted that Malabver-Goulbourne intended to protect her child from the dangers of hand sanitizer, especially after a previous incident where he got it in his eye. During the hearing, Malabver-Goulbourne explained that her action was merely to get her son’s attention, not to harm him. She also clarified that her son started whining because she took the bottle away, not because of the tap on his hand.

The tribunal acknowledged her long-standing service, having joined the trust in 2005 and becoming head in 2017, ultimately awarding her £102,328 in compensation for the unfair dismissal.