Teacher who stole thousands from Norwich school's free meals scheme avoids jail term

  • ITV News Anglia's Andy Ward reports after Reynolds was spared a jail term

A former assistant head teacher stole thousands of pounds through his school's free meals programme for children in order to fund his gambling addiction.

Daniel Reynolds, 36, created fake invoices for food that was donated to West Earlham Junior School in Norwich for disadvantaged pupils during the school holidays so he could claim grant money.

Reynolds was responsible for applying for and administering a grant through Norfolk County Council as part of the government’s Holiday Activities and Food programme. 

The court heard that Reynolds received free food from businesses and donors, and then invoiced the council for the cost of the food - to the tune of £8,520.

Last year Reynolds, of Avocet Rise in Sprowston near Norwich, pleaded guilty to three charges of fraud by false representation and one count of creating false receipts and documentation (making or supplying an article for use in fraud).

At Norwich Crown Court on Thursday, Reynolds was handed a sentence of 10 months, suspended for 18 months and ordered to carry out 300 hours of work - the maximum permitted.

Judge Anthony Bate described Reynolds' offences as "an egregious breach of trust", adding: "You've let down your colleagues, senior staff, the children and the companies who were dealing with you. You must hang your head in shame."

After the hearing, Reynolds ran from the court using an umbrella to hide his face from reporters and photographers.

Daniel Reynolds running from court after being sentenced. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The court heard that Reynolds had been suffering from a gambling disorder as well as ADHD, and had previously been of good character.

He had taken steps to self-exclude himself from betting shops and online bookmakers and by the time he become assistant head, his addiction was "already out of control", said the judge.

Reynolds' parents intended to reimburse the school for the cost of the fraud, the court heard.

Following sentencing, the school where he had worked until his sacking in 2022, said his crimes had hurt its standing in the community.

“The actions of Mr Reynolds have damaged levels of trust in the school," said a spokesman.

"The school is working hard to restore the trust of our community. 

"As a school we are deeply shocked by Mr Reynold’s actions and the fact that he used the school and the Holiday Activities and Food [HAF] programme for his own personal gain.

"As this fraud relates to the HAF programme it has not impacted on the school’s budget or our children’s learning in any way.”

PC Elvis Beya from Norfolk Police said: “Reynolds was in a position of trust and took grant money under the guise of paying for meals for children who are eligible for the Holiday Activities and Food (HAF) scheme but had, instead, pocketed the funds.

"He then made attempts to cover his tracks by submitting false invoices for the food provided.

“This was an unusual investigation given Reynolds position as a former assistant head teacher which compounds the duplicity.”

The school said “full employment checks” had been carried out on Reynolds and and “no concerns were raised about his behaviour or conduct prior to this allegation”.

When the allegations came to light, Reynolds was suspended by the school and later dismissed. 

The court was told that no children had missed out on food because of Reynolds' crimes, and the stolen money had been reimbursed to the school programme by central government.

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