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Westergate primary school snooping-accused teacher cleared

Donna-Maria Thomas

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A teacher who spoke out about alleged “overgrading” of pupils’ work has been cleared of snooping on her colleagues’ emails.

Donna-Maria Thomas, 45, was accused of accessing colleagues’ emails after a row over her being refused leave to go on holiday.

Ms Thomas told Portsmouth Crown Court she had endured “months of hell”.

But speaking outside court Ms Thomas said the “most important thing” was her story was out there for the children.

Jurors heard she reported her concerns at Aldingbourne Primary School in Westergate, West Sussex, and an investigation was launched.

Prosecutor Paul Fairle had said Ms Thomas’s relationship with the school’s head teacher, Liz Webster, had “very much soured” after she was told a mistake had been made and her leave could not be authorised, despite having booked a holiday and flights.

He said a “feud” had developed and told the court Ms Thomas had also complained about Ms Webster on various occasions to the chair of the school governors.

‘Openly hostile’

Ms Thomas told the court people were “openly hostile” to her after this and one member of staff had warned her to watch her back because “they are all gunning for me”.

Ms Thomas had denied accessing confidential material held by Ms Webster between 31 December 2018 and 20 January, 2019.

The jury found her not guilty of one charge of securing unauthorised access to computer material.

After her acquittal, Ms Thomas said: “I feel really pleased that the whole story’s out there because now West Sussex County Council are going to have to take steps to address the problem.

“But it’s more important that that story is out there for the children, that’s the most important thing for me and I just feel so thankful that my story has now been told.

“I don’t know if I’ll go back to teaching, I’m not sure. It’s going to take me a long time to trust people again.”

West Sussex County Council said it would not be commenting on the legal proceedings.

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