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Penny Booth: I wonder where it all went wrong

Date:12 JAN 2011

Penny BoothI notice that the dinner lady sacked for ‘breaching confidentiality' over a bullying case in a school has won her case at an employment tribunal. I would not recommend breaching confidentiality- extremely important in the employment situation and even more so where children are concerned. This was not, however, an example of a deliberate attempt to breach confidence but to tell what needed to be told to the right people - the parents of the victim, who were originally only told that there had been an ‘accident' with a skipping rope. Whether the dinner lady will get her job back is another matter (she may get more compensation if she doesn't get her job back, but more money would not improve this situation and is not what she seems to want, and nor was speaking to the press necessarily a good idea, by the way) and she will have to wait to see about the final decision on compensation. This was not a clear case of bullying but it was certainly more than an unfortunate incident with a skipping rope.

What the dinner lady wants she cannot have - that this sorry state-of-affairs had not happened. Who has lost out? Everyone. All the children - the victim, the boys who did it - and the staff involved. Had the matter been dealt with properly at the start then it would not have turned into the mess it is now - with all that it has cost in money, time and in personal terms. Oh, for gift of foresight with hindsight!

Have we gone far too much in the opposite direction to the one we wanted to take? Schools are now so afraid of adverse reports, of breaching rules and causing problems with our politically correct world (I can't write ‘PC World' as I am taken to be advertising and, anyway, they haven't offered me enough to do so) that we may sometimes miss the sensible route, and have certainly lost much of that sense of trust (if you only have a little bit of ‘trust' can you be said to have any at all?) that used to exist in educational environments. Reports of inappropriate behaviour with children and the resulting swing to compensate don't seem to have helped us much, though.

A contraception implant used by nearly 600 women appears to have failed.  Reports in the press last week announced that a popular (?) implant that was supposed to prevent conception for up to three years has not only failed to work for a proportion but has led to scarring and adverse reactions in the women using it. Compensation has been paid out by the NHS for some cases (so a few more operations will have to wait) as a result. One woman claimed her marriage had collapsed as a result of the stress of the unexpected pregnancy as she did not want children at the time and "...it really disturbed me"... Headline news - yes, children do that.

Talking about crises - the BBC ‘EastEnders' storyline has hit the headlines in respect of cot deaths and reactions of the bereaved (please note that I don't watch it - except for the adverts for it - like everyone else claims, but I do read the press). Yes, it is a gruesome thing but please don't make money and increase your viewing figures from sad events in life. Programmes such as this merely lurch from crisis to crisis and saying at the end of the broadcast ‘If you have been affected by anything in tonight's programme...' just doesn't help or excuse the exploitation.

Watch out this week - because, after getting ‘Radmachered', the report on prenuptial agreements is due out and something might just go right... enjoy your (family) news.

Penny sets the questions for Family Law journalCPD, a new way to gain CPD points by answering multiple choice questions based on the content of the journal.

She is an Honorary Research Fellow at Liverpool University Centre for the Study of the Child, the Family and the Law. Click here to follow Penny Booth on Twitter.

The views expressed by contributing authors are not necessarily those of Family Law or Jordan Publishing and should not be considered as legal advice.