Resources That Walk

Reading time: 4

John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
Read more about John Dabell

Do your school resources go AWOL (Absent With Out Leave)?

Pica Pica (Latin: Magpie)

They say that teaching is the only profession where you steal things from home and bring them to work. That’s true for many of us who regularly raid our own budgets to furnish a lesson.

But clearly that’s not how it always works.

Do you remember my previous post, Stop Thief? Teachers are the ultimate magpies and being an idea bandit is one thing, but what about when it comes to taking actual, physical resources? We often read in the news about teachers that have half-pinched resources on purpose.

To Steal or Not to Steal?

Some have stolen school textbooks and sold them on eBay; one teacher was convicted for stealing 11 iPads and a TV and then pawning them on, and another teacher attempted to steal violins. There have been cases of teachers stealing each other’s food from the staff-room fridge, those that have even stolen food from children’s lunchboxes, some have stolen exam papers, and probably the worst example; one teacher in the US was caught stealing prescription medication from special needs children!

Teacher dishonesty on this scale can devastate children’s trust and damage their relationships with adults. Of course, this sends out completely the wrong message to children who expect their teachers to be perfect role models with flawless CVs and DBS certificates to match. But teachers aren’t saints.

Just imagine if you were a child and you found out you teacher was stealing. Would you trust an adult again?

Many teachers will encounter stealing among students at some point in their classroom and these situations occur for a variety of reasons which children may try to justify. We teach children that their actions have consequences and we deal with situations quickly, proactively and fairly. But what happens if you suspect a fellow teacher is being dishonest? You wouldn’t risk your job by stealing from school, but some teachers do steal, so there’s only one thing you can do: report it, discreetly.

At A Loss?

But wait! There is intentional dishonesty and forgetful borrowing. Great teachers forget.

I have a confession to make and I’m embarrassed to admit it, but here goes. I stole a book. Well, I borrowed it. I found an English textbook and stamped on the inside of the front cover was the name of the school I taught at 20 years ago.

I discovered this the other day whilst rummaging through my ‘Education Shed’. Yes, I have a whole shed devoted to all the teaching materials and resources I have used over the years. It feels like it’s a shed of stolen goods now. I was racked with guilt, so I posted it back with an unsigned note saying ‘Sorry, didn’t realise I still had this’.

I can’t imagine that I took this book on purpose and I don’t think I was wearing a black and white striped jumper at the time, but I had deprived the school of a book that was part of a set and it probably meant that somewhere along the line, some poor child went without and it had to be ‘one between two.’

And the thing is, I know I’m not alone. I know lots of teachers who have confessed similar borrowings over the years.

We inadvertently smuggle home bits and pieces to plan and prepare and things get lost in the domestic mess we call home. If there are any teachers in the world who think they don’t have something belonging to school in their nests, look again – you will find something tucked away somewhere.

Take a look around to see what you might have on a bookshelf, under a pile of papers on your desk and in the shed …

I told you so.

The reality is that every school has a chunk of staff who take resources home and that’s what happens; some of it gets returned, but some of it doesn’t.

Pardon Me, Pardon You:

If you are a senior teacher, then you could organise a resource amnesty where you ask teachers to have a good ‘root around at home’ and return school stuff without fear. There will be more lying around than you think and bringing resources back into circulation will save the school money.

I worked at one school where the management decided to extend a no questions asked assurance and pardon any staff who could bring back things they had borrowed. They knew school stock was walking out of the building and grew frustrated at the school being treated as a library. It appeared all very tongue in cheek because it had to be.

Accusing staff of stealing would have been a wildly unpopular move so the management decided to do it as a poster. I can’t recall the detail but it looked something like this:


A resource amnesty means staff can hand in materials belonging to the school they have inadvertently taken home.

During the amnesty, we want staff to hand in:

Pupil books

Teacher guides

Photocopy Master books


Any school ‘stuff’ (bits and pieces that do not fall into the above category)

(Exclusions apply: laptops and marking)

If you have any classroom essentials you may have taken off site then please return them.

Remember, every resource you have at home is one less resource we can use in school.

Think of the cost!

Signed: The Overheads

Yes, there were groans and moans but it did make staff stop and think. The amnesty wasn’t officially ‘monitored’ as such, but colleagues did bring in bits and pieces. DVDs, books and a few antique resources turned up too – some pupil books more than a decade old.

Having a resource amnesty isn’t meant to make teachers feel uncomfortable, but it does acts as a gentle reminder that ‘school stock that enters the system can sometimes go AWOL’ and getting things back is important.


One thought on “Resources That Walk

  1. “To Steal or Not to Steal” reminds the most well-known philosophical juxtaposition. This moralistic dilemma has been preying on many minds. And now this issue touched the academia which has hitherto been seemingly the most honest world. Education has to be free of thieves, copycats and lies. Have you heard the news about Spanish University? Their head plagiarized a great part of his scientific work and without feelings pangs of conscience he kept on denying the guilt. The plagiarism was revealed by the software called Unplag ( ) Well, sometimes the reason of plagiarism is cryptonesia. But it can happen only in case of idea similarity, not the sentences

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.