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Heroin abuser free to teach

A heroin-abusing primary teacher caught in possession of the Class A drug should be given a second chance to teach, the General Teaching Council for Wales has ruled.

Emma Jones, 29, of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, can teach again, despite a police caution for having the drug in her car parked outside the school gates, a professional conduct committee decided.

Miss Jones told the hearing in Ewloe last week that she is no longer taking drugs and wants to return to teaching.

Police found the substances in the boot and glove compartment of her car in March last year as parents and pupils arrived at Ysgol y Traeth primary school in Barmouth, Gwynedd.

Miss Jones told the hearing she had "stupidly and irrationally turned to drugs" while suffering acute anxiety during her suspension the previous year after two teaching assistants found pieces of heroin foil in a bin in her classroom toilet. She said the foil wraps had belonged to her fiance.

Headteacher Ywain Myfyr gave her a final written warning after the first discovery. He told the hearing that he, along with the chair of governors, had held a meeting to reassure parents and ask them to give Miss Jones "one more chance".

But she was sacked in July last year following the second discovery and subsequent arrest.

Robin Jones, her representative at the committee hearing, said Miss Jones fully accepted responsibility for her downfall, but told the conduct committee she is now "fit, free of drugs and able to teach."

The committee imposed a 12-month conditional registration order during which she must prove to the teaching council and any employer every three months that she is drug free.

Chair Peter Williams said possessing Class A drugs was "fundamentally incompatible" with continuing as a teacher, but he said she does not pose a significant risk of repeating her behaviour.

Mr Myfyr, headteacher of Ysgol y Traeth, told TES Cymru this week he had expected the ruling.

"It was a very difficult time for the school and a very difficult time for Emma Jones personally," he said. "The school has moved on and hopefully Emma Jones can do the same."

Patrick Nash, chief executive of Teacher Support Network, said the committee's decision not to strike her off the teaching register was the right and sensible approach.

She should be given a second chance in the profession. Mr Nash said it is not unusual for teachers to suffer anxiety, stress and depression in his experience, but it was rare for teachers to turn to drugs.

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