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Spending spree head banned for life

Head banned after using school credit cards at supermarkets, gift shops and 'high end' fashion stores

Banned

Head banned after using school credit cards at supermarkets, gift shops and 'high end' fashion stores

A former headteacher who went on a spending spree of more than £17,000 using school credit cards has been banned from teaching for life.

Elizabeth Hart was head at Field Court Church of England Infants Academy, in Gloucester until 2014.

A report from the professional conduct panel of the Teaching Regulation Agency says she spent some £17,855 on school cards on flowers, goods from supermarkets, garden equipment, clothes from major chain stores and music from iTunes, among other purchases.

It decided she was responsible for irregularities in the financial management of the school, using school funds for things that were not solely for the benefit of the school and/or were poor value.

The panel said the seriousness of her actions, and Ms Hart’s lack of insight and remorse, meant she should be banned from teaching.

Dawn Dandy, who made the final decision on behalf of the education secretary, agreed with the recommendation, and imposed a lifetime prohibition order.

The panel was told Ms Hart's spending included approximately £3,800 at gift and flower shops – including a £100 voucher as a thank you “to ‘someone'” –  £5,000 at the main supermarket chains and £3,500 on what it described as “43 purchases at high-end stores such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis, House of Fraser, Harvey Nichols and Next”.

Another £495 was spent at other clothing stores, supposedly because Ms Hart “wanted the school to have good quality costumes for dressing up for various activities including role-playing activities involving teachers in order to bring the curriculum 'alive'”. 

But panel members were “of the view that Monsoon and Zara are retailers which would not typically feature as suppliers of items for school purposes”.

Ms Hart also spent £3,700 on home and garden improvement equipment, some allegedly for a school spiritual garden though the purchases were made a year before this project was approved.

Ms Hart said spending of £225 at Apple iTunes was for conducting school assemblies, but the report says: “There is no cogent explanation whatsoever as to what was purchased via iTunes or why this was value for money for the school.”

The panel also saw no justification for a flight to Scotland purportedly to study key stage 1 work, or for a night spent in a hotel in Tamworth while researching whether Field Court should use an indoor ski centre and visiting another school’s spiritual garden.

Two counts were deemed not proven, as the panel decided using a school credit card outside term time was not in itself unreasonable, and that there was no direct evidence that Ms Hart collected money within school for such gifts and failed to reimburse this.

The report says Ms Hart had a previously good record, and the panel received positive character references "which testified to the fact that Ms Hart was well-thought of and wanted to make a positive contribution to the school".

However, it concluded: “The panel is satisfied that the conduct of Ms Hart amounts to misconduct of a serious nature which fell significantly short of the standards expected of the profession.”

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