A primary school headteacher sacked for assault after tapping her son’s hand to stop him playing with a bottle of hand sanitiser was unfairly dismissed, an employment tribunal has ruled.

Northwold Primary School head Shelly-Ann Malabver-Goulbourne was reported by a colleague for allegedly hurting her son unnecessarily while working late in her office.

The colleague's complaint led to a police investigation and the suspension of Ms Malabver-Goulbourne.

However, the headteacher argued that she merely tapped her three-year-old son with two fingers to stop him from hurting himself.

The employment judge upheld her claim of unfair dismissal, ruling that her action should not be classified as "unnecessary physical contact".

Ms Malabver-Goulbourne had been employed at Northwold Primary School in Hackney since 2005, becoming headteacher in 2017.

The school, in Geldeston Road, Clapton, is run by the Arbor Academy Trust.

On the day of the incident, in January 2022, she had been working late in her office with her son and daughter, who are both pupils of the school, the tribunal heard.

Ms Malabver-Goulbourne tried to stop her son from playing with a hand sanitiser bottle.

The headteacher said that two weeks earlier, the boy had ended up with sanitiser in his eye after playing with a bottle.

The tribunal was told that Ms Malabver-Goulbourne's colleague, Samantha Bhagwandas, reported the incident two days later, saying she had seen the head “smack” her son on the hand.

However, the headteacher pointed out that she tapped her son's hand only to "remind the child of the dangers of playing with the sanitiser".

A police investigation that spoke to Ms Bhagwandas, Ms Malabver-Goulbourne and her children determined it to be a "minor incident".

But the school decided to sack her for gross misconduct following a further investigation and disciplinary hearing.

Employment judge Julia Jones upheld the headteacher's claim of unfair dismissal.

She said Ms Malabver-Goulbourne’s physical contact with her son came within the school’s code of conduct and could not be considered "unnecessary physical contact".

The amount of damages Shelly-Ann Malabver-Goulbourne will receive from Arbor Academy Trust will be decided at a later date.