Male teaching assistant in London wins more than £9,000 after headteacher said he looked 'fit' in Speedos

Headteacher Shelagh O'Shea (
Headteacher Shelagh O'Shea (

A teaching assistant who was told by a female headteacher that he looked "fit" in a pair of Speedo trunks has been awarded more than £9,000 in compensation.

Nikoloz Papashvili lodged a sexual harassment claim against Shelagh O'Shea, saying that her remark was part of a series of "unwanted sexual advances" while he worked at Belvue High School for children with special educational needs in Ealing, west London.

Mr Papashvili was dismissed for claiming he had Covid in order to take a holiday to Croatia in July 2020.

Ms O’Shea signed off emails to Mr Papashvili with a kiss and said she wanted to “meet the pashvili parents”.

The innuendoes led to the assistant becoming the subject of “banter” among colleagues in the staff room.

Mr Papashvili also claimed he was "used and abused" by the head and faced sexual harassment by her seven times between 2017 and 2019.

He took Belvue School to a tribunal after he was sacked for "skiving" to go on a summer holiday.

An employment tribunal ruled that the headteacher's remarks warranted the same level of legal scrutiny as comments made by an older man to a younger woman.

Judge Gary Tobin accepted Ms O'Shea's comments were "jokey" but said: "Comments that might have been prevalent and acceptable in a workplace 30 or 40 years ago are no longer justifiable or tolerated."

He added: "The harassment amounted to juvenile insinuations from an older woman in a professional environment and this reflected badly upon her."

Although the judge agreed that Mr Papashvili was sacked for legitimate reasons, he said that the school's disciplinary process was “substantially flawed”.

He reduced Mr Papashvili's compensation award by 70 per cent because he had been dishonest and told numerous lies in the lead-up to his dismissal.