‘Islamophobe’ head Erica Connor wins Surrey County Council payout
A campaign by two Muslim governors to give Islam a greater presence in a state school played a key part in forcing a successful head from her job, the High Court found yesterday.
Erica Connor, 57, the former head teacher of the New Monument primary school in Woking, Surrey, was forced to leave the school because of stress after she was accused of Islamophobia.
The High Court ruled yesterday that Surrey County Council had failed in its duty to protect her and to intervene when the actions of the governors created problems in the school’s governing body, and awarded her £400,000 damages.
The court was told that over two years, two governors campaigned to make the school more Islamic and that their behaviour had torn apart the school’s governing board. Paul Martin, a Muslim convert, tried to stir up disaffection in the community against the school and Mumtaz Saleem was verbally abusive in school meetings, it was said in court.
Although during the first five years that Mrs Connor was in charge of the school there had been good relations with the local Muslim community and improved results, the judge, John Leighton-Williams, QC, said that the situation had changed when the two men were elected as governors in 2003.
He said that the school’s governing body had become dysfunctional as a result of the behaviour of the two, and that the authority’s failure to act had led to low morale and stress among staff. The council had shown excessive tolerance for the two governors and had lost sight of the adverse effects of such conduct on the school.
Judge Leighton-Williams said that the men had an agenda to increase the role of the Muslim religion in the school and that this, combined with the authority’s failure to protect Mrs Connor, had led her to suffer serious depression.
Head accused of ‘Islamophobia’ wins £400,000 after being forced out by Muslim governors
A headmistress who was hounded out of her job after being falsely accused of racism was yesterday awarded more than £400,000 in compensation.
Erica Connor had run a ‘happy and successful’ primary school but was driven to a breakdown by the allegations.
The Daily Mail can reveal the school’s troubles started when a local mosque decided to pack the governing body with Muslims.
Paul Martin – a Muslim convert – and Mumtaz Saleem began monopolising meetings with the aim of turning New Monument in Woking into an Islamic faith school.
The Surrey town is home to the first purpose-built mosque in the country – the Shah Jahan Mosque – which dates from 1889.
Mr Martin, a businessman, yesterday confirmed there had been a ‘conscious effort’ to increase the number of Muslims on the board.
But when Mrs Connor resisted the new governors’ plans – such as the introduction of Islamic worship into the school – she became the target of a smear campaign.
An anonymous petition was circulated among parents, stating that those signing ‘no longer have confidence in Erica Connor to educate our children in a way that respects and values our faith, culture and heritage’.
An accompanying document accused the headmistress of ‘racism and Islamophobia’.
The accusations drove her to suffer from depression.
She eventually retired from the 300-pupil school because of illhealth in December 2006.
She is unlikely ever to return to teaching and now does voluntary work for a cancer charity.
A judge at the Royal Courts of Justice in London yesterday ordered Surrey County Council to pay Mrs Connor £407,781 in compensation.
He ruled that the local education authority had failed to support her properly against the unfounded accusations.
Deputy Judge John Leighton Williams said the council disregarded the ‘health and welfare’ of Mrs Connor because it was more concerned about being reported to the Commission for Racial Equality.
Religion News Blog files stories about religion-inspired hate- and harassment activities under the ‘Hate Groups’ category.
Inquiry to check faith schools are teaching right from wrong
Independent faith schools are to be investigated by Ofsted over government concerns that some do not teach children how to fit in with British society.
The review will examine the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at small religious schools. It will look at whether children are learning to distinguish right from wrong, and are being taught to respect the law.
The anouncement by Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, yesterday is thought to be a response to recent criticism of some Muslim schools, or madrassas.
A report from the right-wing think-tank Civitas claimed last month that some Muslim children were being prepared to live in “Muslim enclaves”, distinct from the rest of society.
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