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Head chastised for lunch duty claims

Teaching council told that discontent with salary led to false demand for pound;4,000. Becky Sharpe reports

A HEADTEACHER who attempted to claim more than pound;4,000 for lunchtime duties he did not do has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

Eugene Symonds was reprimanded by the General Teaching Council for England, but told he could continue his headship at West Kidlington county nursery school in Oxfordshire.

The hearing heard he was unhappy with his pay, which did not increase when he took on a much bigger, amalgamated school.

"I had undertaken midday supervision for more than 10 years and never asked for or received any payment for it," said Mr Symonds.

"This seemed to me to be a fair way of sorting this out. I was trying to reach a just conclusion. In hindsight, I agree the claims were misleading."

The reprimand covers incidents which occurred when he was head of Thomas Hickman primary in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. It will stay on his record for two years.

Andrew Connell, chair of the GTCE hearing, said: "Mr Symonds admits he could not have done the work he claimed payment for. All heads should uphold the standards of professional conduct."

Mr Symonds faced three charges at the hearing - requesting backpayment for 16 months' daily dinner duties, submitting unachievable budget adjustments, and failing to report thefts of nearly pound;200.

He was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for attempting to appropriate money and failing to report thefts to police. The alleged budget adjusting was not proved.

The hearing heard it was no secret Mr Symonds was unhappy with his salary.

Corinne Greenwood, deputy head of Thomas Hickman, told the hearing that Mr Symonds said teaching friends had claimed for backdated lunchtime money and that he was going to submit a claim for unpaid duties. "He said it was a way of getting round the shortfalls in his salary," she said.

Mr Symonds became head of Thomas Hickman in 1998 after his previous school - Meadowcroft first - amalgamated with a junior school. However, his wage remained unchanged and on September 25, 2001, he resigned.

A month later he was unhappy with the outcome of a pay review. He then asked Buckinghamshire council for backpayment for lunchtime supervision of two hours each day, every day for the previous 16 months.

Stephen Murfitt, presenting officer, said Mr Symonds rarely supervised pupils and there was "a clear link between the disagreement over his pay and his attempt to appropriate midday monies".

After Mr Symonds left in December 2001, council auditors investigated his attempts to claim pound;4,381, unreported thefts, and his budget, which was pound;111,000 in deficit.

Christine Turpin, senior auditor, said: "We found he did not have a contract for midday duties, and by comparing his diaries with staff rotas, that he could not have carried out the work he was claiming for."

She said pound;78 stolen from a parent-teacher association disco and pound;100 in petty cash taken from the school staffroom had not been reported to police.

Oxfordshire County Council refused to comment on Mr Symonds' case.

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