'Aggression' led to false signing

3rd October 2003 at 01:00
A headteacher accused of falsifying travel claims and forging the signature of the chair of governors' had been "physically and mentally intimidated", England's General Teaching Council heard.

Elizabeth Morris, a head for 13 years, had been suspended from the Pynes infant and nursery school in Biddeford, Devon, after signing the name of chairman David Brenton.

In an earlier hearing in June, the GTCE heard how Ms Morris had admitted making two false travel claims, but she had claimed it was due to "negligence, not dishonesty".

She also claimed that Mr Brenton's attitude to her made it impossible for her to approach him, and that the chair of governors had told her to sign a form in his name.

Ms Morris told the GTCE last Friday that Mr Brenton had physically and mentally intimidated her in her office, often coming into school unannounced to quiz her and watch her at work.

Ms Morris said: "His physical actions became so threatening that I was thinking of contacting the police.

"I just couldn't cope with that man, and I have lived every word and deed of his aggression to me since then.

"At a governors' meeting he would say he'd been to the local education authority and tell the committee members to overrule my decisions.

"I believe other people were also intimidated by his manner and actions."

Ms Morris told the GTCE that she had signed documents in the name of the previous chair of governors on occasions, but that she would always show a photocopy of the document the next day.

She said that Mr Brenton had also told her to sign documents on his behalf, including the travel claim form at the centre of the allegations.

She added: "I was devastated when, in December 2000, I was told by the senior county auditor that I was admitting to fraud and advised not to answer questions that may incriminate me.

"I was looking forward to a lovely quiet Christmas, but instead I was told that I could be arrested, had to hand in my passport and not to take any holidays."

The hearing was adjourned.

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