A teacher, who was dismissed from her job after she was wrongly accused by students of looking at pornography on a school computer, has received compensation after an Employment Tribunal ruled that there were no grounds for her dismissal.

Students had alleged that they had seen the teacher, an NASUWT member employed by an Academy, looking at pornography on her computer whilst in charge of a class.

Following the accusation, the teacher’s computer was forensically examined by an independent IT expert, who did not find any evidence to support the accusations made against her. The school’s investigation also showed that its firewall made it impossible for anyone to look at a pornographic website on school computers.

The teacher strongly denied the allegations but was dismissed after the head teacher failed to question the accusing pupils based on his perception of the pupils as being well behaved and from good homes.

Working with the NASUWT, Thompsons Solicitors investigated the member’s case and brought an Employment Tribunal claim for unfair dismissal. The judge determined that the dismissal had been unfair because the school had not carried out a fair investigation and, therefore, did not have reasonable grounds for believing the allegations.

The judge criticised the process followed, highlighting various changes made by the school to the nature of the allegations and the school’s failure to notify the teacher of these changes before it conducted a disciplinary hearing.

The school was also criticised for failing to properly question the evidence of the pupils, to test the details of each student’s account, and for relying on the head teacher’s personal view that the students were well behaved and from good homes. In order to dismiss a teacher under such circumstances a reasonable investigation must be carried out, but the judge ruled that no such investigation had taken place.

The NASUWT member said: “I found the litigation an extremely gruelling and difficult process and, without support from the NASUWT and Thompsons, I would have given up but I was determined to prove that I am innocent. Thanks to the ruling by the Employment Tribunal in my favour I am now able to make plans for my future.”

Ms Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “Too many teachers still go through the nightmare of having their livelihoods put at risk by false allegations made against them. Schools have a duty to any staff member accused of improper conduct to ensure that the complaints are thoroughly and impartially investigated. False allegations can, and do, ruin innocent teachers’ lives.”

Rachel Halliday, from Thompsons Solicitors, said: “The teacher in this case has suffered enormously, she was dismissed from a job she loved because senior management had blind faith in her accusers. In the judge’s ruling, it was emphasised that where a teacher’s future career prospects are at stake, there is an onus on the employer to carry out a thorough investigation and to test the evidence of pupils.”