A TEACHER was victimised when he was turned down for a job despite achieving the highest score in part of the interview process, The Argus can reveal.

Sam Humber had worked at Cardinal Newman School in Hove since 2009 when he unsuccessfully applied for a history teacher’s job on two occasions.

Employment tribunal documents obtained by this newspaper say former school director Debbie Whitmore “skewed” interview reports for the second job so they were “completely distorted” to avoid any backlash for not hiring Mr Humber.

The documents also show current headteacher Dr James Kilmartin sent an email to his chairman of governors Charles Wookey, warning him not to undermine his authority during the process of reviewing a grievance lodged against the head by Mr Humber.

Mr Humber went for the first job in March 2014 and was not interviewed because Ms Whitmore, ex-director of finance and HR at the school, and Dr Kilmartin did not think he was fit enough to answer questions.

At the time he was in a wheelchair because of a prolapsed disc and the job went to 23-year-old Caroline Hardingham.

In May there was another opening in the department and once again Mr Humber was shortlisted.

Mr Humber had received the highest mark for his lesson observation and finished as a leading candidate jointly with Abigail Harkin, 24, who only made the shortlist because someone else dropped out – but still found himself without the job as Ms Harkin was successful.

The notes made on the process were a “completely distorted view of the comparative performance” according to the employment tribunal held last summer.

The report said: “The overall impression we have from the notes is that they were skewed by Ms Whitmore in order to bolster the decision not to appoint the claimant in case of any comeback.”

The tribunal, held in South London between April 27 and July 17 last year, also found Ms Whitmore was the least impressive witness along with the current headteacher.

It said: “Their evidence was in parts contradictory and they made a number of assertions which were then retracted when challenged.

“They both responded to a number of challenging questions with ‘I can’t remember’ or words to that effect and we felt that in doing so, they were being deliberately evasive.”

A spokeswoman for Cardinal Newman admitted not all of Dr Kilmartin’s evidence was accepted by the tribunal but said neither was all of Mr Humber’s.

She said although the school was found guilty of victimisation, it successfully defended the claims of direct and indirect age discrimination.

Ms Whitmore, who now works as a finance manager at Oakwood Primary Academy in Magnolia Walk, Eastbourne, said: “I was employed by the school at the time and I’m sure they have had their say but without seeing the information, I won’t be saying anything more on it.”

The Argus offered to email the report to Ms Whitmore, but she refused saying she did not feel comfortable giving the reporter her email address.


  • On March 3, 2014, Sam Humber turned up for interview in a wheelchair. The interview did not go ahead as he was sent home by Debbie Whitmore and Dr James Kilmartin who considered him unfit to proceed.
  •  Mr Humber was distressed at the cancellation and wrote to Dr Kilmartin requesting an informal meeting but this was refused. He then lodged two formal grievances.
  • On April 25, a second history teacher vacancy arose which Mr Humber applied for and was shortlisted.
  • Graham Goldup, assistant headteacher, and Richard Marsh, history teacher, assessed the lesson observation – one of three elements of the interview – independently of each other and gave Mr Humber the highest mark of all the candidates.
  • Although Mr Humber received the lowest mark for the student carousel, the marks were very close and he came joint first in the third element which was an interview.
  • Mr Humber lodged a third grievance when he discovered he did not get the second job.
  • On becoming aware of the third grievance, Dr Kilmartin sent an email to chairman of governors Charles Wookey, which read: “Of course it is up to you how you proceed in your role as resolution manager. However, please be aware of the potential to undermine my authority as headteacher as you do this..” It went on to say: “As I say please ensure that you do not, inadvertently, undermine authority.”
  • The impression one gets from Ms Whitemore’s typed summary is a completely distorted view of the comparative performances of Mr Humber and Abigail Harkin.
  • The notes were skewed by Ms Whitemore in order to bolster the decision not to appoint Mr Humber in case of any comeback from Mr Humber.
  • The victimisation claim relating to the non appointment of Mr Humber in May 2014 succeeds.