A female teacher has won a sex bias claim after a job at a top boarding school was given to a man who had never taught maths but had a ‘strong handshake’.
Vanaja Greenwood, who had a degree in the subject, said she felt ‘belittled’ after she was told the role had been given to a more ‘complete schoolmaster’.
She worked at the £22,000-a-year Pinewood School, which is set in 84 acres of rolling countryside in the Vale of Bourton on the Wiltshire and Oxfordshire border.
An employment tribunal held in Bristol heard Mrs Greenwood had worked at the school for years teaching a mixture of nursery and year one and two pupils.
In 2019 she decided to apply for a role as a full-time maths teacher at the school as she wanted to put her degree to use.
She was told the previous maths teacher had also been head of boarding and coach for the second team rugby, cricket and hockey.
Vanaja Greenwood, who had a degree in the subject, said she felt ‘belittled’ after she was told the role had been given to a more ‘complete schoolmaster’. She worked at the £22,000-a-year Pinewood School in Oxfordshire (pictured)
Neil Crossley, a director of sport and head of house at a school in Nairobi, Kenya, also expressed his interest in the role and both were invited for an interview by the then headteacher Philip Hoyland.
Mr Crossley said he specialised in teaching sport and had extensive coaching experience. He had also taught sports science but had never taught maths.
Tuition fees at the exclusive private school for three to 13-year-olds are around £7,680 per term.
Before the interviews, Mr Hoyland checked with colleagues whether it was ‘ok’ to ask a female teacher to teach boy’s games.
In assessment of their interviews, Mrs Greenwood was described as ‘gentle’ whereas Mr Crossley was described as having a ‘firm and strong handshake’.
Mrs Greenwood had explained to the headteacher she would not be able to help out looking after children who were boarding in the evenings due to childcare commitments.
He told her the school could be flexible about the boarding and encouraged her to apply for the role but did not tell her the job might also require her to teach rugby.
Neil Crossley (pictured), a director of sport and head of house at a school in Nairobi, Kenya, also expressed his interest in the role and both were invited for an interview by the then headteacher Philip Hoyland
During the interview, Mr Hoyland said to Mrs Greenwood: ‘We know you would be an excellent Maths teacher… so there’s no need for us to discuss that.’
He told her she would likely need to teach boys rugby and cricket as part of the job. Mrs Greenwood said she would try her best but she would be better at netball.
Mr Hoyland noted after the meeting she was ‘possibly a little gentle for upper school’ and he ‘couldn’t see her offering much outside the classroom’.
The headmaster also said her body language in the interview ‘did not always inspire confidence’.
Mrs Greenwood described the interview as ‘the most awkward’ she had ever done and felt the questions were intended to make her appear ‘unenthusiastic’.
After Mr Crossley’s interview Mr Hoyland noticed he had a ‘firm and strong’ handshake.
He told the tribunal that ‘inspired confidence’. He described him as ‘an all-round schoolmaster with energy and commitment’.
The interview panel, consisting of Mr Hoyland and two others took just 20 minutes to unanimously appoint Mr Crossley.
Mr Hoyland said it was a ‘bold’ appointment in relation to the maths teaching and acknowledged it came ‘with an element of risk’.
He told the tribunal he was looking for charisma and dynamism but said that it was Mr Crossley’s ‘presence’ which really impressed him.
After the interview Mrs Greenwood went to see Mr Hoyland and he told her the issue was not about teaching maths, it was not being a ‘big character’.
She said he made her feel ‘belittled and inadequate’, and that she was ‘not worthy’ to have the job because she was not a man.
During the interview, Mr Hoyland (pictured with who is believed to be his wife) said to Mrs Greenwood: ‘We know you would be an excellent Maths teacher… so there’s no need for us to discuss that’
The employment tribunal concluded: ‘[We considered] The repeated use of the word ”schoolmaster”, not only in describing the successful male candidate but also as a more general description of what Mr Hoyland was looking for in a ”complete schoolmaster”.
‘This is a term that only applies to men, and indicates Mr Hoyland’s view.
‘[We also considered] repeated use of words such as ‘dynamism’, ‘charisma’ and ‘presence’ when describing the successful male candidate.
‘We accept that women may also possess these characteristics, and that Mr Hoyland has hired female teachers.
‘However, we find that these are stereotypically male characteristics – particularly the term ‘presence’.’
The tribunal decided the claims for direct discrimination and harassment succeeded in part, and the claims for indirect discrimination and victimisation also succeeded.
A remedy hearing will be held in due course.
A recent review of the school in Tatler magazine observed that parents ‘marvel’ at the ‘freedom for children to grow, get filthy, have fun, explore and question’ while enjoying a ‘wide range of sporting, academic, musical and drama opportunities’.
Parents also praise ‘lovely staff across the board’, it said.
Pinewood School said in a statement: ‘Pinewood School is disappointed with the judgement in this case and is now taking time to consider this further.
‘This has been a very difficult time for all involved, and the School will now ensure it continues to focus on the future, working with all our staff to provide a holistic, well-rounded education for all pupils.’