THREE teachers have launched a landmark legal case to block their forced transfer to other schools. The case could make it harder for councils to move underperforming teachers on to other schools in future.

But unions say that allowing the transfers to go ahead would amount to an abuse of the so-called mobility clause, putting teachers at risk across Scotland.

The case follows a highly critical inspection report of St Augustine’s Primary School in Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, in May. It was said to be one of the worst on record.

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After its publication the council decided to move the three members of staff to other schools using the mobility clause in every teachers' contract which permits their relocation.

It says the teachers must be moved to bring about improvements at the school. Officials maintain they have acted within their rights to use the clause.

However, the NASUWT union, which represents the three, has challenged the decision on grounds that no formal disciplinary proceedings had taken place before they were asked to move.

The union has been granted an interim interdict which prevents the council from moving the members of staff until a full hearing has been held.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said the outcome of the case would have significant implications for all teachers.

She said: “Imagine the stress, distress and deep sense of injustice you would feel if you were forced, by your employer, to leave your place of work for no valid reason.

“If the mobility clause is allowed to be invoked on such spurious grounds every teacher across Scotland is at risk and we are determined to challenge and fight this not only on behalf of the teachers at St Augustine’s, but also on behalf of all teachers across the country."

The mobility clause in teachers’ contracts has only been invoked by employers as a result of formal disciplinary procedure to require the transfer of teachers within an authority because of conduct or performance issues. It has also been used to transfer teachers surplus to a school’s requirements and for reasons of health and wellbeing.

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But an NASUWT spokeswoman said action had been taken by the council without any formal procedure and without either consent or agreement of the teachers concerned.

She said: "The reason given by the council was that an inspection report had identified issues within P6 and P7, the areas in which they taught, but the report focused on only progress and achievement across the school and did not identify any problem particular to these year groups nor did it name or identify any individual teachers.

"None of the teachers being directed to move had, at any time, had issues raised about their performance. All of the teachers identified had each given over 19 years of service to the school. We consider this an abuse of the mobility clause and will challenge the actions of the local authority."

The NASUWT, which has written to Education Secretary John Swinney about the matter, said the council decision had set a precedent for other employers to "unfairly and unjustly" invoke the mobility clause of individual teachers.

Isabelle Boyd, the council's assistant chief executive for education, said: “It would be inappropriate to discuss the detail while there are live legal proceedings.

"As the third largest education authority in Scotland we always act in the best interests of staff, children, young people, families and their communities."

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The inspection report into St Augustine's was one of the worst on record with the school receiving four "weak" rating for improvements in performance, meeting the needs of learners, the curriculum and improvement through self-evaluation.

The report stated: "Across the school, children’s progress in literacy and numeracy is weak. Children make a very positive start in their learning at P1 and as a result read well and write about their experiences.

"They use numeracy skills confidently and solve problems together. This prior learning is not built upon consistently well as children move through the school. By P7, children do not display the knowledge, skills and understanding expected by this stage."

The report concluded: "Systems to monitor and track how well children are doing over time are not well developed. As a result, the evidence the school has about children’s progress is not robust or reliable enough."