A PART-TIME teacher unfairly dismissed after a school tried to force her to work five days a week has won her two-year battle.

Denise Hart, who worked with students with dyslexia, speech and sight problems, won a tribunal against St Mary’s School in Colchester and has been awarded £30,000.

The school decided, for educational and business reasons, her lessons needed to be taught in the afternoon five days a week.

A tribunal found the school did not give a “real explanation” of its decision and its consultation was “inadequate”, wrongly believing it could alter her contract as it wished.

Mrs Hart, who had worked for 12 years at the independent school, said: “I loved this job I got to know all the girls and all the colleagues. I just wish it all never happened.

“The senior management team need to be more sensitive and more communicative. It should be an open door policy.”

The school’s leadership team, in September 2012, developed a new timetable to start a year later.

It said numeracy and literacy were best taught in the mornings when children would be more receptive, and that no children should be withdrawn from these lessons for Mrs Hart’s Brain Gym sessions.

The school told Mrs Hart, who worked Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, she would have to work five days a week in the afternoons.

Five teachers, including Mrs Hart, were affected, but she is the only one who complained.

She said she could not work five days a week because of her family commitments and proposed alternative arrangements.

The school said her proposal was “not in line with its thinking”.

After three meetings between Mrs Hart and the school, headteacher Hilary Vipond wrote to her to say the school was unable to accommodate her proposal and had the power to vary her hours unilaterally.

Mrs Hart handed in her resignation on September 3 2013 and was signed off sick by her GP for the three-month notice period.

She said: “Between April and May 2013 I became really depressed because of the stress. The meetings made me very ill. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep.

“The doctor told me that I was depressed, I couldn’t leave the front door.”

On November 22 2013, she made a claim of constructive dismissal. It was heard in March last year and was dismissed.

Mrs Hart appealed, a fresh tribunal was heard in August this year and Judge George Foxwell ruled in her favour.

He found that even though the school had a genuine educational and economic reasons to change the timetable, it did not treat her fairly.

He said the consultation was inadequate and school wrongly believed it could alter the contract unilaterally.

John Pendle, chairman of governors at St Mary’s School, said: “We take the welfare of our staff very seriously.

“Every member of staff is highly valued, as is the contribution they make to provide the best possible education for our pupils.

“In the light of the recent employment tribunal decision and the interpretation of the law which has set a precedent, we have already begun to review our human resources procedures to ensure our staff members continue to be treated fairly.”