Drunk in car but not in class

Simon Dawson

A secondary school teacher who served 28 days in prison for drink-driving has been allowed to return to teaching by England's General Teaching Council.

The disciplinary hearing gave John Loughran a conditional registration order on the understanding he attends an alcohol abuse course.

It heard that pupils at Hall Garth school in Middlesbrough had complained twice to the school's head that the economics and business and IT teacher was drunk while teaching. Pupils said Mr Loughran, whose marriage had collapsed, had made upsetting comments about his personal life, and that on another occasion, he was in such an emotional state that it was inappropriate for him to be teaching.

Richard Bain, the headteacher, rejected one complaint from pupils that Mr Loughran, who was working as a supply teacher, was drunk in class. But when he investigated a second complaint, it was mutually agreed that he should go home. "He had an air of not being in control of himself and smelled of alcohol," Mr Bain told the hearing. "I'm certain he was not fit to be in front of the class and I attributed that to alcohol."

Mr Loughran covered health care and social issues classes at the school, but developed a serious alcohol problem after the collapse of his marriage.

He was arrested twice for drink-driving, and sentenced to 21 days jail at Eden magistrates' court after being charged with driving with excess alcohol and without due care and attention in August 2004.

He was arrested again the following month for driving with excess alcohol and was sentenced to seven days in prison. He served the full 28 days in one go.

He admitted he had a drink problem when he appeared before the hearing in Birmingham last week, but said it was now under control.

"I would have drunk a lot of spirits, way over the limit which is healthy,"

he said. "But I didn't think it was affecting my behaviour in school, despite the fact I was drinking heavily at night."

Mr Loughran said he had turned his life around and was now teaching maths in another school. He admitted the driving offence amounted to unprofessional conduct but denied all claims of teaching while under the influence of alcohol and of making inappropriate comments.

Andrew Faux, presenting officer, said: "We've heard how his eyes were glazed, he was unsteady on his feet and smelled of alcohol. On the balance of probabilities he was affected by alcohol on that day when he was teaching."

The GTC found Mr Loughran guilty of unacceptable professional conduct for the drink-driving offence, but cleared him of making inappropriate comments and being under the influence of alcohol while teaching.

Robert Millea, who chaired the hearing, said he must undergo an alcohol abuse course within six months and not commit any further drinking-related offence.

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Simon Dawson

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