Ban for head who used school funds for Sri Lankan holiday

17th December 2010 at 00:00

A primary school headteacher who used school money for a trip to Sri Lanka and made unauthorised payments of thousands of pounds to her husband has received a two-year classroom ban from the General Teaching Council for England (GTC).

Gillian Smyth, former head of Colham Manor Primary School in Uxbridge, Middlesex, claimed expenses for a trip to Sri Lanka with other teachers from the school without the approval of the governors.

She hired her husband, Peter Smyth, as a consultant and made unauthorised payments to him - including one of over pound;5,000 - without telling governors of the conflict of interest.

The GTC panel heard that she had also "dishonestly" changed invoices after she had authorised their payment, belatedly adding information and in at least one case writing a cheque before an invoice had been received.

"The appointment of Mr Smyth required a very clear audit trail . and Mrs Smyth had a responsibility to make sure that the correct procedures were carried out and the governors advised accordingly," the GTC ruled.

But instead, "there was no note of the appointment, no terms and conditions of employment, and sparse minutes of the governing body as to the appointment".

Mrs Smyth was also found to have declared wrong financial figures to the London Borough of Hillingdon - which has a "claw-back" arrangement that allows it to reclaim unspent budget. The GTC did not rule on whether Mrs Smyth, who was head for over five years, leaving the post in March 2009, had submitted the wrong figures intentionally.

The former head changed a contract from part-time to full-time shortly before the staff member concerned went on maternity leave "in order to increase her financial entitlement", and defied her governors' express wishes to change the contract of a finance officer, allowing her to work from home.

Mrs Smyth, who did not attend the GTC hearing, lent pound;300 from school funds to admissions officer Sarah Rees and "failed to oversee that repayments were made".

The panel heard that she flouted school rules by authorising advance payments to a flooring contractor and by directly appointing the contractor when it should have been put out to tender.

It ruled: "Mrs Smyth has no insight into her behaviour. This is not a case of an isolated incident but conduct that has taken place over a number of years. Mrs Smyth has expressed no remorse."

The committee added that it had considered milder punishments than the two-year ban it gave to Mrs Smyth, but it needed to maintain "public confidence in the profession and the reputation of the profession."


Inappropriate behaviour rap

A primary school teacher who seized two boys by the shoulders to break up a fight has been reprimanded by the GTC.

Simon Hipps was working at St Gabriel's RC Primary School in Rochdale at the time of the incident. He was also found guilty of inappropriate conduct for making a whole class write lines after they failed to queue quietly in a corridor.

The GTC panel said: "The `one size fits all' approach was inherently unfair to those pupils who had not been involved in the misbehaviour."

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