Head fiddled school funds to buy laptop

27th June 2003 at 01:00
A HEADTEACHER who used pound;3,684 from school funds to buy a laptop and amplifier for his home has been found guilty of unprofessional conduct by England's General Teaching Council.

Ian Walker took the money from Queen's Park special school in Lincoln despite not needing it, a hearing in Birmingham was told last week.

The 56-year-old asked subordinate members of staff to sign blank cheques, forged the signature of an auditor and failed to keep proper records of school funds.

Mr Walker did not attend the hearing but, in a written statement, suggested he should "be prevented from teaching". He resigned after being suspended in March 2001 and is no longer in education. He has been banned by the GTC executive from dealing with school finances and has been excluded from further management responsibilities.

Mr Walker has returned both items and money to the 200-pupil school for children aged three to 18 with severe learning difficulties.

At the time of the offences he was said to be under a great deal of stress, taking medication for depression, and was frustrated that his request for early retirement had been rejected.

Andy Barker, chair of the GTC committee which heard Mr Walker's case, said there had been "deception and repeated misuse of school money".

He said it was unreasonable for Mr Walker to have asked staff to sign blank cheques, when refusal might put them in a difficult professional position.

"We accept Mr Walker gave full co-operation and took full responsibility for his actions, but we also accept that he made no attempt to return all of the goods until the investigation was fully under way," he said.

An anonymous complaint to Lincolnshire County Council about irregularities in financial records prompted an investigation into the administration of school funds in March 2001.

The hearing heard how the investigation discovered goods including a Toshiba laptop and printer, along with a stereo amplifier, charged to school funds but kept by Mr Walker.

David Albuery, the presenting officer, said: "He admitted to having the amplifier immediately, but it was only after checks had been made at the school that he returned the computer equipment."

David Stubbs, assistant county treasurer for Lincolnshire, said Mr Walker had forged the signature of the auditor of the school fund account. A comparison of payments showed that receipts for personal purchases by Mr Walker had been filed in the school fund and he had reimbursed himself.

Mr Stubbs said: "Having one person in charge of the account gave Mr Walker a lot of leeway."

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