THE secretary of a small village primary school systematically stole tens of thousands of pounds from its funds over a seven-year period, a court was told.

Sharon Dickinson took advantage of the lack of scrutiny in her trusted role overseeing finances at St Michael’s Church of England Primary School in Bishop Middleham to take what the prosecution claims amounted to £47,367.78 by various means between 2010 and 2017.

Dickinson, who worked at the school from 2004, was said to have used the school procurement card for her own purchases, ordering personal items on eBay and from Amazon, during the period of the alleged offending.

She is said to have pocketed parents’ school dinner money payments as well as cash paid for uniforms, text books, trips and income from school fundraising activities.

Durham Crown Court heard that the defendant was a co-signatory of the school cheque book, along with head teacher Lynsey Vollans. Dickinson is also accused of withdrawing money and buying other items using funds in the school’s bank account.

Phillip Morley, prosecuting, said: “She was managing the finances and the prosecution say she abused her position of trust. She denies it and says she didn’t take any of the missing, unaccounted for, money.”

Mr Morley said she took advantage of the fact that St Michael’s was not signed up to a Durham County Council-run school audit service.

“It was a small village primary school and the lack of scrutiny provided her with the opportunity to steal from the school.”

Mr Morley said Dickinson had financial problems, living beyond her means, and some of the stolen money was used to exercise her debts.

Despite Dickinson’s efforts to mask her activities the head teacher did become concerned and signed up to the council auditing service.

“Significant anomalies” became apparent and it was referred to police, who carried out a forensic accounting check, revealing the extent of the missing school funds.

Dickinson, 50, of Burdon Close, Newton Aycliffe, who was suspended on January 31, 2017, resigned before a scheduled interview over the school finances.

Despite initial denials when questioned by police, she made admissions in a third interview, in March 2018, but later, at court, denied charges of fraud and theft.

Her trial continues today.