Teacher 'sacked for challenging antisemitism'

By Leon Symons, February 9, 2010
Bigland Green Primary School in Tower Hamlets

Bigland Green Primary School in Tower Hamlets

A Christian teacher who claims he was forced out of his job for reporting his pupils’ antisemitic and anti-Christian comments clashed repeatedly with a barrister at an employment tribunal.

Nicholas Kafouris, 52, claimed that pupils at predominantly Muslim Bigland Primary School in Tower Hamlets, east London, had said in lessons that they “hated Jews and Christians”, had praised the Twin Towers perpetrators as heroes and martyrs and said they wanted to be “Islamic bombers” when they grew up.

He claimed he had reported the comments repeatedly to the head, Jill Sankey, and assistant head Margaret Coleman, but they had brushed aside his complaints.

Mr Kafouris was signed off with stress by his GP at the end of February 2007 after Ms Coleman warned him not to challenge the pupils in class about their remarks.

He said the lack of support from the school made him clinically depressed and unable to work. He was sacked in April last year.

Cross-examined at the hearing in Kingsway, Central London, by Betson Criddle, counsel for the school and Tower Hamlets Council, Mr Kafouris became agitated as the barrister asked him about the appearance of his brother Andrew on school visits.

Mr Kafouris agreed that his brother appeared while he was with a class at the Museum of London. But he became angry when Ms Criddle suggested Michael had appeared at various other venues “including the swimming pool”.

Mr Kafouris shouted: “No, he did not. If they have witnesses they should turn up or get an affidavit. That is a lie made up by the school.”

Ms Criddle read a statement from another teacher about the incident but Mr Kafouris said he could not remember talking to her.

The pair clashed again when Ms Criddle said the school had ordered one boy who made racist remarks to write a letter of apology to Mr Kafouris.

Mr Kafouris retorted: “A letter of apology was not given to me by the boy until two weeks later when I asked him. That’s not right.”

Ms Criddle said the boy in question had undergone mentoring “about understanding Islam better and because he was struggling to understand the concept of other religions”.

Mr Kafouris said; “He was a smart boy. He knew about his own religion and he knew enough about Christianity to make a remark to me. He was being rude and racist.”

Ms Criddle put it to Mr Kafouris that he wanted the boy to be punished. Mr Kafouris said that was wrong: “I did not want him punished, he was only a child. I didn’t want any child punished. I wanted him to be corrected.”

Mr Kafouris said he would have wanted a meeting involving the boy, his parents, the head and himself to tell the boy that what he was doing was wrong.

“But I was not important enough. I was left out,” he said.

The hearing continues.

Last updated: 3:31pm, February 9 2010