Margaret Bailey's crimes 'have devastated' Endon Hall Primary School
SHE was a trusted member of staff and the 'life and soul' of a primary school where the pupils loved her.
But shamed secretary Margaret Bailey is today beginning a two-and-a-half year sentence after swindling tens of thousands of pounds from her employers.
Endon Hall Primary School's headteacher Vicki Lewis last night told how Bailey's crimes had 'devastated' the school.
And parents described their disgust after learning how the respected member of staff betrayed their trust.
Some of the money stolen by the 51-year-old, below, had been raised by parents to help fund school trips and other extra-curricular activities.
Bailey was even nominated as an 'Adult School Star' in the Staffordshire Moorlands Community Awards at the height of her scam in 2009.
Headteacher Miss Lewis, who was among the first people to confront Bailey when her crimes were discovered, said: "Margaret was well-liked and respected by everyone at Endon Hall.
"The whole school has been absolutely shattered by this betrayal of trust.
"During the 10 years that she worked here, Margaret was known as the 'life and soul' of the school, often giving up her own time to support fund-raising events and never taking a day off work.
"We now know she was systematically stealing sums of money, and meticulously covering her tracks, by switching money around so the accounts always appeared in order.
"Over a long period of time she stole from both the school funds and the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and also took cash paid by parents for activities such as school trips, and then settled the bill from the school budget.
"Margaret not only abused her position of trust as an employee, but has also ruthlessly deprived pupils of the money raised by hard-working parents."
Kim Haynes, chairman of Endon Hall's PTA said: "People are in shock. I had known Margaret since my son started at the school six years ago. I haven't spoken to her since this all started."
Sue Walton, of Endon, whose eight-year-old son attends the school, said: "You thought you knew her but you didn't know what she was doing behind the scenes. There are a lot of very angry parents."
Councillor Liz Staples, Staffordshire County Council's cabinet member for education and skills, said: "Within 48 hours of an internal audit investigation being started, Bailey was suspended and then resigned. This then became a police matter."