Jet-setter who stole pound;150,000

A woman who siphoned funds from a special school has been barred from teaching for two years, reports Oliver Luft.

A teacher who stole more than pound;150,000 from a special school to fund a celebrity-style life of luxury holidays has been banned from teaching for at least two years.

Doreen Abbott, who taught at the Lancastrian school in West Didsbury, Manchester, took friends on holiday to Mauritius, where she organised limousine trips around the island, and on Caribbean cruises.

The 60-year-old was given a two-year jail sentence after pleading guilty to 20 counts of theft last year.

England's General Teaching Council heard this week that the thefts meant the school for children with physical disabilities was forced to postpone urgent repairs.

Ramps for pupils using wheelchairs could not be built, special playground equipment could not be bought and children missed out on outdoor programmes because of cash shortages.

The disciplinary committee, which sat in Birmingham this week, removed Abbott from the teaching register for a minimum of two years. It found that the level of financial loss suffered by the school had had a profound impact on learning after trips were cancelled and vacancies left unfilled.

Carole Cooper, who had been deputy head of the school during the thefts, said: "The psychological impact was dreadful. The school was stunned."

The GTC heard that Abbott stole money between November 2000 and May 2003.

Andrew Faux, presenting officer, said: "She did so with very simple methods. She ran up large credit card bills that she paid off with school money. You can't get much simpler than that."

Abbott, who had taught at the school since 1994, was effectively its bursar and in charge of an annual budget of more than pound;1.5 million. She had relinquished teaching duties and was earning pound;38,000 per year.

Mr Faux said that Abbott stole the cash to fund frivolous living for herself and her friends. He said that she had set up 27 bank accounts and wrote 156 cheques to fund her adventures, forging the signature of her co-signatory on 125 cheques.

Abbott pleaded guilty to 20 counts of theft in February 2004 and was sentenced to two years' imprisonment by Manchester crown court in July 2004.

She had spent so much money the court could only order that pound;13,300 be recovered from her. Since she was jailed last year the school has been able to afford a new playground and disabled parking spaces, which previously it did not have.

Abbott, who did not attend nor was represented at the hearing, made a submission to the council stating that she had no intention of returning to the teaching profession.


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