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Banned for cancer scam

Teacher falsified medical certificate for old knee operation. Andrew Wakefield reports

A secondary teacher who said he had stomach cancer and falsified medical certificates to claim sick pay and cover school absences has been suspended from teaching for a year.

England's General Teaching Council found Matthew McArdle guilty of forging the documents and misleading Sidney Smith school, in Kingston-upon-Hull, into thinking he had a serious illness.

Mr McArdle, who was head of science at the comprehensive, was paid his full salary during his absences.

"We believed a teacher was dying," Derek Coe, the headteacher, told the hearing. "He didn't need pressures in salary terms. We didn't want the guilt that we might have contributed to his illness."

Mr McArdle did not attend last week's disciplinary hearing in Birmingham and was not represented.

He was employed as the school's head of science between January and December 2003, but started taking extended self-certified absences almost immediately and regularly complained to staff about having problems with his stomach.

The panel heard he had photocopied a certificate given to him by Bradford Royal Infirmary for a knee operation in July 2003. He changed details on the photocopy to cover absence in June 2003 when he claimed he was having an operation on his stomach. Staff at the school suspected the certificate might be false when they spotted that details had been crossed out.

The panel heard that the words "deepening perennial groove knee operation" had been replaced with "stomach operation", the certificate's period of validity had been extended to four weeks, and that a doctor's signature had been copied.

The doctor confirmed the signature but said it would not be normal practice for her to sign a certificate for a stomach operation as she works in the orthopaedics department.

At a meeting in 2003 Mr McArdle denied that he had falsified the certificates, but the GTC ruled that his denial was unsupportable. As well as suspending him for a year, the council said that before he can register to teach again, he must provide a medical report to show he is fit in all respects.

Mr Coe said staff were sympathetic and that after long periods of absence, morale plummeted in the science department because staff believed that Mr McArdle would not return. He said results were affected and that there was considerable parental discontent.

Mr Coe said that Mr McArdle was "out of his depth" and "euphoric with power" at becoming a head of department for the first time, but added:

"Then he realised he wasn't up to the job."

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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