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Headteacher awarded £700,000 after dismissal over Grindr threesome

Aplin was the head of Tywyn Primary School in West Glamorgan
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A 42-year-old primary school headteacher who was sacked after having sex with two 17-year-old boys has been awarded nearly £700,000 by a tribunal.

Matthew Aplin had a threesome at his home in August 2015 after meeting the two teenagers on Grindr – a dating app aimed at gay, bi and trans adults.

Mr Aplin, who was a teacher for 19 years, had been the head of Tywyn Primary School in Sandfields, West Glamorgan, and was open about his sexuality. He was sacked by school governors despite the police and local authority deciding no criminal offence had been committed.

The former headteacher argued that the threesome was lawful and part of his private life, and described the management of the case as “biased and homophobic”. He launched an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal and sexual orientation discrimination after being sacked.

The Employment Appeals Tribunal found Mr Aplin would have been treated differently if he was a heterosexual male having sex with two teenage girls, or a woman with two teenage boys, and ordered the Governing Body of Tywyn Primary School to pay him more than £696,000.

The ruling stated that Mr Aplin was “dedicated to working in the education sector and someone who was not only ambitious but effectively so”.

After he was sacked, the former teacher was unable to return to work because all the appropriate jobs advertised were administered by the same Local Education Authority that was overseeing his discrimination claim. It was therefore concluded that Mr Aplin had been unable to mitigate his losses from the sacking.

“We came to the conclusion that given his existing experience he would be likely to return eventually to a headteacher role and that he would do so more quickly than he did previously because of his experience,” the ruling said. “Doing the best that we can, we view that this would take up to 10 years.”

The £696,255.65 compensation included £20,000 injury to feelings, £286,424.37 pension loss and £208,029.33 in past and future loss of earnings. However, the tribunal knocked at least 20 per cent off the £700,000 bill for the school, as the teacher could have been fairly dismissed without discrimination.

Mr Aplin claimed the right to a private life under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The panel concluded: “Headteachers have authority over children. If headteachers have sexual relationships with children it cannot be seen, without exploration of evidence, whether that authority is misused. It is necessary therefore to restrict the occasions when such sexual relationships arise so that confidence that headteachers will not exploit that authority can be maintained. Therefore, we consider that it is possible to conclude that in the circumstances of this case the claimant could have been disciplined for his admitted conduct.”

When it first sat in September 2017, the tribunal heavily criticised the school’s investigating officer – who worked for Neath Port Talbot Council – for discriminating against Mr Aplin on the basis that he was gay.

The officer was found to have approached the case on the basis that Mr Aplin could be a danger to children, and that he produced a report “laden with judgements and conclusions which were hostile to Mr Aplin”, rather than being objective and factual.