Corrupt head teacher pocketed thousands from school budget to fund luxurious lifestyle
A primary school head teacher is facing a lengthy jail term for funnelling hundreds of thousands of pounds meant for school dinners, trips and equipment into her own bank account.
Michelle Hollingsworth systematically siphoned cash from Annie Lennard Primary in Smethwick, West Midlands, by using the schools cheques for designer clothes, oil paintings and antique furniture.
Hollingsworth conspired with her secretary Deborah Jones to falsify receipts and invoices that suggested the money was being spent on repairs and school supplies.
Over a five year period they plundered the schools cash, blowing £6,000 on one trip and a total of £16,000 on several visits to a luxury furniture shop called Chic Interiors in Cheshire.
The boutique stores title was changed to Chic Supplies on school records in a bid to cover up the type of item bought – one of many tricks they used to get away with their actions.
A court heard how Hollingsworth, 55, concocted stories to explain why a school cheque was used to purchase certain goods while her accomplice, Jones, would input false information about purchases onto the schools financial system at the head teachers instructions.
When their scheming started to unravel, Hollingsworth tried to dump all the blame on the 57-year-old school secretary Jones, who she said was in charge of spending.
But a jury was told that the head pocketed thousands from petty cash and money paid into the school by parents for their childrens dinners, trips and fundraising, causing the annual fund of such payments to plummet from £21,000 to less that £4,000 five years later.
£9000 worth of furniture from Hollingsworths home in Staffordshire was also paid for with money from the cash-strapped school, a jury was told.
The school finances became open to abuse when the head, who had worked at Annie Lennard Primary for 29 years, took over managing cheques that had previously been handled by Sandwell Council.
Tricks to extort money from the school included plotting with builders and traders who were paid with school cash for jobs that were either not done or vastly overpriced, in the expectation of pocketing kick-backs from the deals.
Jones admitted her husband Davids business, ESR Building Maintenance, was paid £77,000 for invented work supposedly done at the school between March 2010 and May 2015.