Wrexham teacher banned after cash was stolen

Reporter:

Claire Gallagher

A MAN has been banned from teaching after stealing cash from a child’s memorial fund.

Samuel Luke Fitzpatrick worked at Ysgol Penygelli in Coedpoeth, a professional conduct committee heard.

A teacher tribunal organised by the Teaching Council for Wales yesterday also found Mr Fitzpatrick had stolen other money from the school and had used the
internet for personal use when he should have been teaching.

Mr Fitzpatrick, 30, who went to school in Buckley, also made false claims for payment via a supply teacher payroll system called Eteach by pretending to have worked more hours than he had.

Following an investigation at the school Mr Fitzpatrick was suspended in September 2009 and later got a job working at Asda in Queensferry.

On February 12 he was cautioned by North Wales Police for stealing £300 from Asda on January 20 and £260 from the same store on February 12.

The committee ruled all of Mr Fitzpatrick’s behaviour amounted to unacceptable professional conduct and said all of the facts had been proven.

Mr Fitzpatrick, who was first employed at the school in September 2007 as a year two teacher, did not attend the day-long hearing at St David’s Park Hotel, Ewloe.

The committee chairman, Richard Parry Jones, issued Mr Fitzpatrick with a prohibition order banning him from teaching.

He will be entitled to reapply to register as a teacher again in two years.

Summing up the case Mr Jones said: “The candidate in question had the potential to affect the education of pupils.

“Mr Fitzpatrick abused his position of trust and was engaging in dishonest behaviour which he attempted to cover up.”

Mr Jones said that there was a “significant risk” of Mr Fitzpatrick repeating his behaviour.

He added the committee had taken into consideration that Mr Fitzpatrick suffered from depression but there was no medical evidence to suggest his actions were as a result of this problem.

During the hearing headteacher of Penygelli school, Stephen Lewis read a statement which stated that staff first became suspicious that money was going missing in July 2008. He said that £140 had gone missing from a sealed bag in the administration office followed by £16 and then £60.

Further to this in January 2009, £20 was taken from a child’s memorial fund, followed by a further £10 in February.

Money continued to go missing from general places around the school and Mr Lewis was advised by police to mark coins to see if Mr Fitzpatrick was taking the money.

Mr Lewis said three £1 coins were marked and put into a jar.

Two of the marked coins were found in Mr Fitzpatrick’s bag and initially he claimed he had changed them for four 50 pence pieces and put them into the jar.

But no 50p pieces were in the jar and Mr Fitzpatrick then said he must have put them on the desk and that had been stolen from there, the committee heard.

The school secretary at the time, Audrey Jones, gave evidence to say Mr Fitzpatrick had the login details of the Eteach system which monitors how many hours supply teachers have worked.

She said Mr Lewis became suspicious when there was an entry for eight hours in one day when the normal teaching day would be about six hours.

Mrs Jones said: “He (Mr Fitzpatrick) would always input his own (hours) but I did all the others. I trust people. When I was working for 42 years I trusted people.”

The committee heard from the presenting officer on behalf of the teaching council, Emma Poole, that records had been printed off to show Mr Fitzpatrick had been on websites including Wrexham Football Club and Play.com.

Miss Poole said on one occasion Mr Fitzpatrick had left children unattended to answer a mobile phone call and had also been looking for car insurance on the AA website as the children were getting changed after a PE lesson.

See full story in the Leader

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