Ipswich: Teaching assistant gets £28,000 for unfair dismissal

Tracy Hodgkinson has been awarded £28,000 for unfair dismissal.

Tracy Hodgkinson has been awarded £28,000 for unfair dismissal. - Credit: Andrew Partridge

A teaching assistant unfairly sacked from an Ipswich primary school after concerns were raised over her contact with her sex offender son has been handed a £28,000 pay out.

An employment tribunal held in December found that Tracy Hodgkinson was unfairly dismissed from her position at Halifax Primary School in January last year.

The 47-year-old, of Hawthorn Drive, said after going back to court for a settlement hearing she was awarded £28,300. After more than a year of fighting, Mrs Hodgkinson said she can finally look forward and put the “living nightmare” behind her.

Mrs Hodgkinson’s son, who was 18 at the time, was sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison in May 2010 for sexual activity with a female under the age of 14 and a further offence of grooming.

She claimed the school set out to get rid of her after she informed headteacher Anna Hennell-James and Janice Lee, strategic manager for the learning and improvement service at Suffolk County Council, that her son had been arrested in November 2009.

Mrs Hodgkinson was eventually dismissed in January but she took the Prince of Wales Drive school to a tribunal. In her judgement, tribunal Judge Moore found she was unfairly dismissed due to the way the school treated her following the arrest of her son.

Mrs Hodgkinson, who volunteers at the Sue Ryder charity shop in Ipswich and has not returned to her job at the school, said she could not abandon her son after she lost her daughter Shona Gill, who died from a rare form of cancer in December 2004.

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She said: “It is a weight off my shoulders. The whole process has really taken its toll, my health has suffered. I did nothing wrong, the judge made that clear. The school were prejudiced against me and dismissed me unfairly.

“I couldn’t abandon my son, he’s the only child I have left. Me having contact with my son, who has paid for what he did, posed no risk to the children.

“They tried to make me pay for his crimes. I feel I can draw a line under it all now. I am very saddened by what has happened, but glad that I stood up and fought for what I believed in. I still can’t really believe I had the strength to stand up and fight my case in front of barristers and lawyers.

“There were times when I contemplated taking my own life, but the memory of my daughter got me through. I really hope the school has learnt from what happened.”

A spokesman for the school said: “We are disappointed that the tribunal did not see fit to uphold our decision to dismiss Mrs Hodgkinson, however we are pleased that the judge agreed with our view that it would be inappropriate to reinstate her.

“Our main priority has always been, and will continue to be, the safety of children in our care.”