Two-year ban for teacher who couldn't keep schtum about trip

1st October 2010 at 01:00

A teacher who took exotic trips around the world while claiming sick pay from her school and then boasted about her travels has been banned from the profession for two years.

Helen Smith toured the US while dishonestly claiming the money and posted details of the trip on her personal website.

She also falsely claimed to have a PhD and another postgraduate qualification.

The music teacher performed abroad while claiming to be ill during October and November 2007. She had asked her employers at Abbeydale Grange School in Sheffield if she could have time off work for the trip but had been refused.

During the two weeks she was away Mrs Smith received full pay. She wrote on the website: "In October 2007 Helen toured around the east coast of the USA, performing at Steinway, New York, and Naples, Florida."

The CV she gave to her school said she had a doctorate and an MPhil, and she repeated these claims on websites advertising music tutors. A General Teaching Council panel heard evidence that her certificate, from the University of Hull, was not genuine as it bore the signatures of a vice-chancellor, principal and academic registrar who were not in post at the time.

Mrs Smith said her PhD was from "Buxton University", which the GTC found was an unaccredited online vendor of qualifications.

She also claimed on the internet to have graduated from the Royal College of Music in London, which she also claimed had given her a scholarship. The award she mentioned does not exist and there is no record of her graduation.

Liz Nicholas, business manager at Abbeydale Grange, investigated the case in 2008. Mrs Smith resigned, telling the school she could provide "solid supporting evidence and a full explanation" but never did.

GTC panel chair Dr Nadine Bristow said: "We find that Mrs Smith did act dishonestly both by reference to the ordinary standards of reasonable, honest people and that she herself must have realised by those standards that her conduct was dishonest.

"We further find that having been given instructions to discontinue referring to those qualifications that she could not substantiate, she continued to do so both in and out of work."

Mrs Smith did not respond to the allegations, did not attend the hearing and was not represented. She was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct and banned from the profession for two years.

"She failed to maintain appropriate standards of honesty and integrity in dishonestly receiving sick pay and she dishonestly misrepresented her professional qualifications. By so doing, she also brought the reputation and standing of the profession into serious disrepute," Dr Bristow said.

"Mrs Smith's behaviour represented a serious departure from the code of conduct, there was persistent dishonestly and an attempt to cover that up, there was a persistent lack of insight into the seriousness of her actions and there is evidence of continuing attitudinal problems."


Faking it

Carol Pusey was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct after she worked for nine days as a supply teacher at eight different schools while still being paid by Whitefield secondary in Cricklewood, north-west London.

Frank Aboagye called in sick to his school so he could go to a conference in China on behalf of another employer. Mr Aboagye, who was teaching at Sir Frank Markham School in Milton Keynes, was already employed by two schools at once after lying to his employers.

English teacher Alison Boon, 33, was contracted to teach on Mondays at Fort Hill community school in Basingstoke, Hampshire but instead called in sick to Fort Hill and taught at Trinity School and Performing Arts College in Newbury, Berkshire, on the same day. She was reprimanded by the GTC.

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