March 16 2014 Latest news:
Thursday, February 13, 2014
The former head teacher of a Great Yarmouth school has been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct but been spared a ban.
A panel found Jennifer Elliott, 50, breached school policy and county council regulations in relation to finance, shortly after she was appointed as head of North Denes Primary School in autumn 2010/early 2011.
But it said no sanction should be imposed against her as the outcome of the professional conduct hearing was sufficient “to establish and mark the seriousness” of her failings.
The panel found some of the allegations relating to a breach of council policy and financial regulations - including not obtaining at least three competitive quotes for redecoration of the school corridors and not managing the tuck shop in accordance with school policy - were proven.
In its report the panel, from the National College for Teaching and Leadership, said the tuck shop was run in an “ad-hoc and haphazard way”, after hearing that cash from sweet sales were kept in her room in a box under the sink, and money was not banked.
It also said Ms Elliott did not comply with Norfolk County Council policy by authorising payment of a family member as self employed, rather than through the authority’s payroll.
She was also found to have provided money from a non-uniform event and a school disco to use as “floats” at the Christmas fair, without first ensuring the money had been properly accounted for.
But other allegations, including those relating to not exercising her responsibilities in a fair and transparent way and breaching council policy by reimbursing a staff member for travel expenses, were not proven.
In mitigation the panel said Ms Elliott “inherited a school which was in disarray”, received inadequate support from some colleagues and she had a good history with no previous disciplinary record.
But they said: “These circumstances cannot excuse her failings in financial management which has...led to our finding of unacceptable professional conduct.
“However, there is no evidence of direct adverse impact on any persons and, as a consequence, improvements to the fabric of the school were made.”
They also made it clear that there was no allegation that Ms Elliott “was behaving dishonestly or derived any personal gain from her disregard of the financial regulations”.
In making the final decision over disciplinary action, Paul Heathcote - acting on behalf of the education secretary - said: “Whilst the circumstances cannot excuse her failings in financial management, there is no allegation that she either behaved dishonestly or sought to make any personal gain.
“In all the circumstances I agree with the majority recommendation [of the panel] that it is sufficient there is a finding of unacceptable professional conduct, and therefore no prohibition order is required in this case.”
Ms Elliott is no longer head of the Jellicoe Road school. The current headteacher was not available for comment.