Geoffrey Burley, 55, former head at Widey Court primary, Plymouth, was jailed for nine months after being found guilty of separate charges of stealing Pounds 1,600 of school funds. He used the money for drink, cigarettes and shopping.
Judge Graham Cottle told Mr Burley: "In your position, to steal money from that fund was a disgraceful breach of trust." The judge added he had taken account of glowing testimony to Mr Burley's character, his hard work and ability and the efforts he had made to raise money for the school.
Mr Burley had intended pleading not guilty to the charge of creating "ghost" pupils, which the prosecution alleged had gone on for three years and cost the education authority Pounds 130,000.
However, because he was found guilty of seven thefts and jailed, the Crown decided not to proceed to a second trial and the charges were left on file by the judge.
Simon Jenkin, Devon's chief education officer, said that council officers had spotted the alleged discrepancies which led to the court case during a routine audit.