Praised head ended up in jail

24th March 2006 at 00:00
But GTC commends teacher's efforts to turn his life around after being convicted of pound;23k theft. Nigel Iskander reports

A former headteacher who stole computer equipment worth more than pound;23,000 while working as a security guard has been given a reprimand by England's General Teaching Council.

Roger Byrne, the "outstanding" former head of Wooden Hill primary in Bracknell, Berkshire, was jailed for eight months after pleading guilty to the theft, which was captured on closed-circuit television. He committed the offence during a break from teaching while working for Reliance Security in Reading in July 1999.

In Mr Byrne's criminal trial in 2000, Judge Joe Mowat described the theft as a "bizarre crime" given his history as "an outstanding head to primary children".

Mr Byrne retired as head of Wooden Hill primary in 1992 on the grounds of ill-health after eight years there and did supply teaching until 1998 before working as a security guard in Reading.

In July 1999 he was observed on CCTV taking computer equipment from the building he was working in. He was arrested and his car and home were searched.

Byrne told the GTC hearing in Birmingham last week that he stole the equipment because most of his colleagues spent their time sleeping and he wanted to show how lax the security was. He said the equipment had been at his home and he had intended to return it and tell his employers.

"I decided to walk out with something to see if they would notice," he said. "Wherever I was posted I would try to beat the system to see whether security was good. It became a bit of an obsession. I was feeling very unhappy with my circumstances and it manifested itself in this stupid behaviour.

"It was all very foolish. I was sent to prison and it was an awful shock, but I breached the trust of my employers and I acknowledge that. Prison was a very harsh setting, especially for someone with a primary school teaching background."

While he was in prison, Mr Byrne taught inmates and after nine weeks was tagged and let out for good behaviour.

Mr Byrne said he had felt so ashamed by what he had done that he gave himself a two-year ban from teaching. "I decided not to look for work as a teacher. It was not appropriate," he said.

When he applied for supply work in 2002, he got jobs with Oxfordshire and Maidenhead councils after telling them about his history.

An investigation was launched when he was reported to the Department for Education and Skills. He then started to train as an accountant before going on to work for the Kingsley Organisation, a charity that helps disabled adults. However, he said he would like to return to the classroom.

Peter Cooper, who chaired the disciplinary hearing, said the crime had been "an aberration in the otherwise excellent career of an outstanding head". He said Mr Byrne had "showed great insight into his failings and has taken steps to rehabilitate himself".

* newsdesk@tes.co.uk

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