Head guilty over missing holiday cash

18th April 2003 at 01:00
... but tells General Teaching Council he spent school trip money on creme eggs for students and wine for staff. Becky Sharpe reports

THE first head to appear before England's General Teaching Council has been found guilty of six counts of unacceptable professional conduct after failing to account for more than pound;3,000 spent on school trips.

Roy Smith has been told he must have no financial or managerial involvement in future roles, effectively spelling the end of his career as a school leader.

But the former head of Churnet View middle school in Leek, Staffordshire, can continue teaching and has already been offered a new post in September.

Charges against Mr Smith, head of the school since 1987, included submitting false mileage claims and using secretarial and administrative staff for personal reasons.

An accusation that he used pound;4,000 of school funds to buy tickets for international rugby games for third-party use was unproven.

Mr Smith accepted that his records were erratic but said he could account for the missing money. It was spent on small purchases such as chocolate creme eggs for students, wine for colleagues and materials for school trips, he said.

He denied trying to falsify mileage claims and said he was "confused and inaccurate" as he came to the end of his school career.

"I was spending 65 to 70 hours in school a week and must have taken short cuts. I lost the ability to prioritise or delegate properly," said Mr Smith.

"I am an old-school head and was more concerned with maintaining the life, atmosphere and ethos of the school," he added.

He kept an "unofficial" petty cash box in his desk drawer with as much as pound;250 in it to "instantly respond to the needs of the school" and therefore did not keep records of transactions.

Mr Smith was investigated by council auditors and arrested by police on suspicion of dishonesty, but released without charge after eight hours of questioning.

He was suspended from Churnet View in January 2001, and resigned from the school that September.

Auditors were brought in after staff became suspicious of incomplete records for three trips to Bournemouth between 1998 and 2000, and one to France in 1999, Stephen Murfitt, the presenting officer, told the hearing.

The inquiry found amounts of pound;704, pound;909, pound;857 and pound;750 respectively were unaccounted for at the end of each trip, and that large amounts of pupils' money had not been banked by Mr Smith.

A further investigation found he had made 41 mileage claims for "banking" between April 1999 and July 2000. NatWest Bank, however, had no record of him visiting at the alleged times.

Ian Jenkins, principal auditor for Staffordshire council treasurer's department, said Mr Smith claimed mileage for visits to schools when "he had never visited the schools - full stop".

Mr Smith said he resigned after he became seriously ill and not because he was accepting blame for the allegations.

"The accusations utterly shattered my personal and professional health," he said. "Would I really have risked my career for a comparatively small gain?"

Carole Regan, chair of the GTCE committee, said: "Public money must be handled in a way that is publicly accountable and transparent."

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