A teacher has been ordered to pay back more than £3,000 which she stole from a primary school’s parent staff association.

Samantha Gosnell, of Lincoln Road in Stevenage, appeared at Stevenage Magistrates’ Court yesterday (Wednesday).

She pleaded guilty to two fraud-related charges after taking £3,381 from St Vincent de Paul Catholic Primary School’s Parent Staff Association (PSA).

The 41-year-old was arrested in January after a member of staff, the PSA’s newly-elected treasurer, found inconsistencies in the Stevenage school’s accounts. When questioned, Gosnell produced a fake Amazon receipt – claiming the money had been spent purchasing resources on behalf of the school, situated in Bedwell Crescent.

Gosnell initially chose not to enter a plea, meaning the case would have to be taken to trial at a later date, but changed to a ‘guilty’ plea when asked to confirm by magistrates.

She started her career as a teaching assistant at the school 16 years ago before being encouraged to pursue a teaching degree – funded by St Vincent De Paul – and became a full-time nursery teacher and chairman of the school’s PSA.

Defending Gosnell, Ken Stott QC said: “This is completely out of character for Mrs Gosnell. She lives at home with her husband and two children and has been called a ‘pillar’ of the school. It was because of her ability working with children that the school encouraged her to become a full-time teacher three years ago. I have spoken to her many times but she has yet to find an explanation as to what caused her to act in this way.”

A statement from the school’s headteacher Rosemary Sherry, presented in court, read: “I have known Samantha for more than 20 years and she always had great ability working in the classroom. She is a very determined and hardworking woman. She has always had a good relationship with staff and parents and I have always considered her to be of good character.”

Gosnell was handed a 12-month prison sentence, suspended for 12 months. She was also given a one year supervision requirement and ordered to repay the missing money as well as £85 in court costs.