The former head teacher of a special school has been accused of spending thousands of pounds of school money on private holidays to the Caribbean.
Susan Duncan, who worked at The Meadows School, in Dudley Road East, Oldbury, also filed expenses claims for items such as handbags, table lamps and scuba diving equipment, a committee for the General Teaching Council heard yesterday.
Miss Duncan, who did not attend the Birmingham hearing due to ill health, denies eight allegations of professional misconduct and claimed that the trips to Jamaica and Antigua were risk assessments for future school trips.
A second teacher Margaret Simcox, who travelled to Jamaica with Miss Duncan in April 2006, is also accused of making false claims for expenses.
She also chose not to attend the hearing. Presenting officer Andrew Faux, who made the case against the two teachers, said Miss Simcox was nursing Miss Duncan who she lives with.
The committee, chaired by teacher member Ralph Ullmann, agreed to proceed in Miss Simcox’s absence as if she had denied the three allegations made against her.
Suspicions regarding the claims were aroused after Miss Duncan was seconded away from the school suffering from ‘sick building syndrome’ and acting head teacher Jane Edgerton took her place.
Mrs Edgerton, who is now head teacher at Brays School, in Sheldon, said: “It became apparent that something wasn’t quite right. To put in a receipt for a handbag didn’t feel right to me.” An investigation into the financial irregularities was launched in June 2006 on behalf of Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council by senior investigation officer Anthony O’Donaghue.
In the course of his investigation he discovered a number of discrepancies including £3,002 believed to have been taken from the school’s Jamaica Trip fund which was used for exchanging dollars and never repaid.
He also found that Miss Duncan inappropriately removed £27,600 from one school budget into the same Jamaica Trip fund.
In November 2004 Miss Duncan travelled to Antigua on a private holiday where she ‘swam with dolphins’.
She claimed the swimming experience as an expense on the basis that it was a risk assessment for a future school trip to Jamaica.
In April 2006, Miss Duncan and Miss Simcox travelled to Jamaica and claimed the cost of the trip on the same grounds. The two teachers are alleged to have allowed four members of Miss Simcox’s family to travel on a school trip to Jamaica in May 2006 without ensuring they had been properly checked for working with children.
Miss Duncan, who was relocated to Victoria Park School, in Oldbury, in the capacity of advisory head teacher, resigned in February 2007.
Miss Simcox was dismissed from Meadows School in April 2007 for gross misconduct.
The hearing continues today.