Angus head teachers have been cautioned against spending money donated to schools to help pupils “for the benefit of staff” instead.
Head teachers are responsible for managing “school funds” – money collected through fundraising activities and donations received for the pupils’ benefit.
But some school heads in Angus have broken the school fund management rules and have spent the money on staff instead.
Dr Pauline Stephen, Angus Council’s director of schools and learning, told councillors on the scrutiny and audit committee: “There’s been a misunderstanding about what the use of the school funds is for.
“It’s very clear it’s for the benefit of pupils at the school and on a small number of occasions it’s been used for something else, perhaps for the benefit of staff rather than pupils.
“That’s been made explicitly clear to head teachers that is not the case and will be addressed by the work going forward.”
Speaking after the meeting, Councillor Brian Boyd, independent, said the revelations were “alarming.”
“I am worried to hear this has been going on. It doesn’t send out the right message to parents and other generous benefactors.”
The council’s audit team evaluated the head teacher’s management of school funds as of “limited assurance.”
This means control is “inadequate or ineffective” and “some significant weaknesses have been identified which are likely to undermine the achievement of objectives.”
A 12-point plan, including mandatory training for head teachers, advice against keeping large balances in school funds, and a rule against holding pre-signed cheques, has been drawn up in a bid to improve school fund management.
More school administrators, working across clusters of primary schools, have also been appointed to provide additional support to head teachers.
Dr Stephen suggested head teachers had become confused after being given responsibility for the management of three different funding streams “all of which have slightly different rules and reporting requirements.”
Good practice was highlighted at St Margaret’s and Tannadice Primary schools where head teachers report school fund balances at every parents’ group meeting with the minutes being issued to all parents.
Councillor Lynne Devine, SNP, said the additional support for head teachers “should certainly help people focus on some of the monetary difficulties that have clearly been going on.
“I like the fact some schools report on the school fund and if that could be rolled out that would be a useful practice.”
Greg Dempster, general secretary of the Association of Head teachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS), said he wasn’t aware of the findings of the review.
He said more training and support for head teachers sounded like a “fair and measured” response.