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Man stole to get revenge

'Gifted' but troubled RE teacher is suspended for a year by General Teaching Council. Tara Fawcett reports

An RE teacher who stole money from his school and forged references has been suspended for a year by the General Teaching Council of England.

David Sloan, who worked at Thomas Moore high school for boys, in Westcliffe-on-sea, Essex, illictly bought items using school cheques "out of a mixture of revenge and a tantrum".

He had found the cheque book in a store cupboard at at a time when he was angry because cuts were made to his course materials budget and he had been overlooked for promotion.

Mr Sloan, described as a "gifted" teacher, was taking anti-depressants and sleeping tablets at the time. He did not believe normal grievance procedures would work so took matters into his own hands. Police were so concerned about Mr Sloan's mental state when he was arrested that they arranged for a priest to visit the police station, in addition to checking on him every 15 minutes.

Mr Sloan, who taught at the school for six years, was found guilty of theft and using deception to obtain pecuniary advantages at South East Essex magistrates' court in April 2002. He was given 80 hours' community service and a 12-month community rehabilitation order, after using the cheques between April and December 2001.

Mr Sloan told the council hearing this week that he had used the cheques - from a defunct bank account - to buy book vouchers for the school and that he had been going to buy computer equipment with the remaining cheques.

But Professor Eileen Baker, GTC committee chair, said: "We are not convinced of Mr Sloan's intention for the other vouchers."

Mr Sloan was arrested and suspended from teaching RE and law at Thomas Moore in December 2001. However, while on bail he forged a reference from Dr David Rees, head of RE, and used it to apply for jobs in February 2002.

The forgery allowed Mr Sloan to get a job at HSBC bank and as a result he was arrested again in March 2002 for using deception to obtain pecuniary advantages.

He admitted that he had forged the signature of his former colleague because he had not been able to get a reference from the school and expressed regret at his actions.

Dr Rees said Mr Sloan's actions were a "mark of despair" and that his colleague was "pretty desperate" because he had lost his job and feared he would lose his house.

"He is a very gifted teacher who is very dedicated to his job," he said. "I hope that he will be able to continue teaching. I think he has the potential to be again what he was."

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