Cardinal Newman School in Luton rocked over alleged £25k theft by staff member

Cardinal Newman School
Cardinal Newman School

A Luton school has shared further details after a staff member allegedly stole £25,000 from its coffers.

Parents of pupils at Cardinal Newman Catholic School were shocked in June when they were told of the “financial irregularities” relating to a member of the school’s finance team, who resigned with immediate affect.

Headteacher Joe Richardson told Luton News that the alleged thief targeted money from childen’s fundraising for charity, as well as other income streams.

In a letter to parents, the school stated that it had conducted its own internal investigation beginning in June and that this information had been passed to police.

The letter stated: “The Trust identified theft of around £25,000, although the precise figure is ultimately impossible to determine due to the cash based nature of the incident.

“The theft went undetected as the main account affected was not made available to key persons of responsibility, including the appointed accountants.

“The theft had a profound negative impact on those affected by the incident. Students and staff have worked hard to raise funds for a variety of causes, both charitable and school based.

“It is deeply upsetting that the theft preyed upon the good will and hard work of so many.

“Determined not to see charitable causes and vulnerable people lose out, with the money that remained in the affected account, the school was able to honour outstanding payments to charities where these were identified through the investigation.

“As a result, almost £6,000 has been sent onto good causes as was the intention of staff and students who contributed to this fundraising in the first place.

“Although the key person at the centre of this incident has resigned from their post, the Trust determined that there are areas where improvement is needed so that nothing of this kind can go undetected in future. The Trust has been working to an action plan shared with and scrutinised by the ESFA (Education Skills Funding Agency).

Key actions include:

> The account affected was fully disclosed within the Audit return for 2017-18.

> All vulnerable accounts have been closed, including those where there was no issue, to minimise the risk of future irregularity.

> The school is in the final stages of confirming its preferred online banking partner, ensuring the amount of cash brought into the school is kept to an absolute minimum, significantly reducing the risk of cash being stolen.

> Internal controls with respect to the handling of cash are being reviewed and replaced where appropriate.

> Policies have been subject to external review and updated where appropriate.

> A further independent review of internal control took place at the beginning of November.

> With the support of Luton Borough Council HR services, the Directors followed appropriate procedures throughout with respect to personnel matters.

> The Trust had already begun work on plans to amend staffing structures to build the capacity and procedures required in our expanded Academy Trust. The CEO has proposed plans for change that have been approved and these will be shared early in the New Year.