Struck off for faking cancer

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
A primary teacher who wove a web of deceit, claiming she had leukaemia to avoid an Office for Standards in Education inspection, has been struck off the teachers' register for four years.

In May 2002 Dawn Fitzsimons - known as Dawn Coombs at the school - told her headteacher at Seaburn Dene primary in Sunderland that she had been tested for the illness weeks before the inspection was due to begin.

Maxine Purdy, her headteacher, told the disciplinary committee in Birmingham that staff at the school were deeply affected when they heard her news. "Many tears were shed when she was away from school," she said.

She told the committee that she had offered to be tested for bone marrow compatibility after Miss Fitzsimons said her mother had refused to have the tests.

Miss Fitzsimons, who was not present at the hearing, was also found to have fraudulently applied for permission to go to hospital appointments.

Mrs Purdy said: "All staff had to work very long hours frequently in preparation for the inspections. Nevertheless, we took on some of Miss Coombs' responsibilities as she was unable to cope."

It was not until Mrs Purdy contacted the consultant Miss Fitzsimons claimed she was seeing in July 2002 that her lie was exposed.

Mrs Purdy was also informed by the headteacher of a neighbouring school that Miss Fitzsimons had told staff that she had leukaemia before an Ofsted inspection while working there in the autumn of 2001.

Before an internal investigation had been concluded, Miss Fitzsimons was granted sick leave by her doctor on July 6, 2002 for insomnia and depression and did not return to the school.

In a written statement, Miss Fitzsimons admitted lying. She said she was terrified of the inspection, not because she was a bad teacher but because of a lack of confidence.

Summing up, Sheleen McCormack, the presenting officer said: "Miss Fitzsimons created a complete web of deceit over a period of several months."

If Miss Fitzsimons intends to return to teaching, she must apply for re-registration after four years.

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