A headteacher today condemned the “betrayal of trust” by a school governor who stole more than £3,000 of children’s dinner money.
Kathryn Braidford, 46, took money intended for school trips, uniforms and meals for children at Breck Primary School, in Poulton, and used it “to go shopping”.
Blackpool Magistrates’ Court heard how Braidford, who lives in a £650,000 home in an exclusive area of Poulton, had fallen from grace having been trusted to work in the school office.
The former British Airways hostess was a parent governor at the school on Fouldrey Avenue when she took the money and headteacher’s Lottery syndicate cash over an eight month period.
Headteacher Cheryl Brindle told The Gazette how the incident was only brought to light after a member of staff noticed money missing from accounts and said it had cast a shadow over the school.
Mrs Brindle said: “Any betrayal of trust is of course very upsetting for a school community like ours.”
She added that the incident diverted her time away from children’s education, instead having to call in police to deal with the criminal matter.
Mrs Braidford’s husband Steven, who earns £100,000 a year as the managing director of a wealth management company, said he was “mortified” by the crime.
Blackpool Magistrates Court heard from Mrs Brindle, how the incident had caused “angst” in the school as others were suspected of the crimes.
Mrs Brindle added: “These issues were brought to light by a vigilant member of staff and then confirmed with the help of the county council’s audit team. I am grateful for their support.“I was saddened when I had to install CCTV.
“I had real affection for Mrs Braidford and trusted her. There was real angst in the school over this period and pupils were not longer allowed to go in areas or complete tasks they formerly did.
“This is a primary school and I should be dealing with education and not having an environment where all the staff and pupils were suspects.”
As a governor Braidford worked in the school office, on a voluntary basis, as an administrative assistant three days a week.
She was trusted with cash and cheques sent to the school for school dinners, school trips, uniforms, social event and out of hours activities, and instructed to bank this once a week.
But the alarm was raised when £300 went missing and later £170 which was the staff Lottery syndicate.
Prosecuting, Jane Yates said: “One day a brown envelope containing £300 for pupils’ school photographs went missing.
“That was followed by the disappearance of £170 which was headmistress Cheryl Brindle’s money for the Lottery syndicate.”
During the summer holidays last year CCTV was fitted in the school office which showed Braidford removing a bag of money from the desk which was logged on the computer system but never banked.
When police were called in Braidford told them she used the money “to go shopping and buy food” but thought she was stealing school money rather than individuals.
During a search of her home she produced school bank account cheques and paying in slips.
The school lost £3,434 which Braidford has now been ordered to repay within 28 days along with £85 court costs and a £20 victim’s surcharge.
Two of the mother-of-three’s children are privately educated and the family live in a detached home on Mains Lane, Poulton.
Defending, Leisa Splaine said: “This woman has never been in trouble before.
“She has now left the school and when confronted by police admitted what she had done.”
The court heard Braidford had a career but felt “invisible” and had low self esteem.
She has been sentenced to 12 months supervision and to attend a special offenders’ group.
District Judge Jim Clarke, sitting at Blackpool Magistrates Court, said: “You were in a position of trust and suspicion for a time fell on others.
“What you did had an impact on children, parents and staff at the school.”
Mrs Brindle added: “I am relieved that this episode is now over and we can move on.”