A FORMER Ormskirk music teacher who lied about having cancer and forged a medical report to get time off sick was banned from the classroom for eight years.
Elizabeth Lamb, 28, blamed her frequent absences from St Bede’s Catholic high school school on hospital treatments and being too unwell to come in and even set up an internet blog about her bogus illness, a Teaching Agency professional conduct panel heard.
Head of music Miss Lamb, who joined St Bede’s in 2007, first told her head teacher Richard Varey she had cancer in October 2010.
Mr Varey told the panel that when he proposed referring her to the education authority’s occupation health advisers she produced a fake medical report to cover her tracks.
But suspicions were aroused when different versions of her story did not add up.
When interviewed by Mr Varey, she eventually admitted her lies.
Miss Lamb claimed she had found a lump in her breast in September 2010 which turned out to be a cyst – but had then gone on to make up the story of her illness.
After the school threatened disciplinary proceedings, she resigned on November 13 last year.
In her letter of resignation Miss Lamb, who was not represented at the hearing, said she was receiving treatment and therapy for health issues and was “sincerely sorry and regrets wholeheartedly the distress arising from her actions”.
The panel considered a dossier of documents including texts, blog posts, absence records, and a doctor’s statement saying a medical report supposedly from him was false.
The panel found there was “a risk to the public and to pupils if somebody who lied over a long period of time, who was dishonestly misleading, took advantage of her colleagues’ sympathy, and who damaged children’s education by being absent from school, is permitted to continue to teach children”.
She was found guilty of serious professional misconduct and banned from the profession for at least eight years.
The school’s GCSE results for Music in 2011 plummeted to a 12-year low, with only 39% achieving an A* - C grade, down from 62% the year before.
And concerned parents of pupils who took music last year have now contacted the Advertiser to question why adequate cover wasn’t provided, why pupils weren’t given the option of changing to another course and why parents weren’t notified of the issue.
In response, Richard Varey, who was head at St Bede's at the time, said: “As soon as I began to have doubts about the authenticity of this staff member's illness, I took immediate disciplinary action.
“We did our best to support pupils and minimise the impact on them when the staff member missed some days due to alleged illness, such as allowing her additional time to concentrate on supporting Year 11 pupils, and providing cover with as much continuity as possible.It was of course a difficult time for the school, but it is also true to say that everyone who knew this teacher was genuinely pleased to know that she did not have a terminal illness.”
St Bede’s current head teacher Chris Horrocks, who replaced Mr Varey after he took up a new post in Burnley earlier this year, has invited any parents or former pupils with concerns or questions about the issue to contact the school to arrange a meeting with him.
And Mr Horrocks said: “My predecessor took action on this case as soon as his suspicions were aroused.We are grateful for the support we received from all quarters during this time and I am pleased to say school life has continued as normal.”
“WE did our best to support pupils and minimise the impact on them when the staff member missed some days due to alleged illness” - former St Bede’s head teacher Richard Varey.
Were you affected by the events at St Bede’s last year? Tell our reporter ROB PATTINSON on 01704 398253 or email email@example.com