STUDENTS
03/07/2012 06:49 BST | Updated 03/07/2012 08:15 BST

Teacher Nicola Hibberd Faked Cancer To 'Gain Sympathy From Students'

Parents have expressed their horror after it emerged a primary school teacher faked being terminally ill with cancer.

Nicola Hibberd forged letters from doctors to back up her claims, fabricated hospital appointments in order to take time off school and even made up the name of a Macmillan nurse, a disciplinary hearing heard.

Her web of lies spanned a four-year period, during which time she told The Park Junior School in Nottingham she was suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. A teacher disciplinary panel heard how the 44-year-old "sought support and sympathy from colleagues, school management, pupils and parents".

During the course of her employment, Hibberd made references to at least three medical doctors and consultants said to be in her care team at the Queen's Medical Centre (QMC) campus on Nottingham University Hospital.

In January 2008, Hibberd gave a letter to the primary school's headteacher Steve Hewitt-Richards. The document, seemingly from Dr Richard Richard Baxter, a consultant clinical oncologist at the QMC, confirmed Hibberd as having been diagnosed with the disease, which was in "its final stages and in need of prompt treatment".

The Teaching Agency panel heard how, shortly after receiving the letter, Hewitt-Richards researched the condition on the internet, "with the aim of ensuring he was providing Hibberd with a sufficient amount of support".

"To his surprise [he] found a third of the letter appeared to have been lifted from the Macmillan Cancer webpage."

The headteacher then decided to contact the hospital in an attempt to speak with one of Hibberd's care team. He discovered the doctor and practitioners the teacher had referred to were not registered as practising at the hospital, or indeed any other NHS hospital.

There was also no record of the Macmillan nurse "Jane Wilson", who Hibberd had referred to as supporting her, nor was there any record of Hibberd at the hospital.

Following an investigation into the incident, Hibberd, who worked at the school from 2006 until 2010, resigned.

Parents have now expressed their shock at the revelations.

Kelly McDonnell, whose eight-year-old son attends the school, told the Nottingham Post: "It's absolutely gob-smacking. I'm horrified and can't believe it."

Another parent, who wished to remain anonymous, told the local paper, "It's just not the sort of thing that's done. If she's done that, she's not fit to be teaching."

Last month, the teaching panel found Hibberd "must have realised her conduct was dishonest".

After recommending Michael Gove impose a prohibition order on the teacher, the secretary of state banned Hibberd from teaching indefinitely, ruling she could only apply to teach again in five years time.