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Reprieve for drunk teacher

Teaching council rules that staff member who could not sober up should carry on teaching. Tara Fawcett reports.

A primary school teacher who turned up to school drunk, insisting that she wanted to look after her pupils despite slurring her words and being unsteady on her feet, has been allowed to carry on teaching.

But Margaret Kneen will have to submit consultants' reports on her alcohol dependency to England's General Teaching Council and tell schools she is subject to a five-year conditional registration order.

The GTC ruled that she was drunk when she went to Holy Cross primary in Hucknall, Nottingham, on March 13, 2003, and that she had alcohol in her bag on the same occasion.

The hearing in Birmingham heard that Mrs Kneen, now working as a supply teacher in Nottingham, did not drink at the Roman Catholic primary during school hours.

The committee heard that Year 1 pupils returned from playtime and saw Mrs Kneen clutching on to furniture after drinking two alcopops and a gin and tonic earlier on the morning of March 13, 2003.

The temporary teacher repeated herself in slurred speech as she tried to explain something to the children before they were ushered into other classrooms so colleagues could attempt to sober her up.

Pat Snowdon, headteacher, said: "She seemed to be in a state that could only be described as obvious and serious intoxication. I regarded Mrs Kneen's intoxication to be very high as she smelt very strongly of alcohol.

Her pupils were dilated and she was slurring her speech."

Mrs Kneen was eventually persuaded to move to the staffroom but failed to sober up despite drinking several cups of coffee and having a bowl of soup.

A search of the area revealed no empty cans or bottles, but Kate Turner, a senior teacher, said she saw an unopened can of gin and tonic in Mrs Kneen's unattended bag, which could have been discovered by pupils.

Mrs Kneen, who was present at the GTC hearing, was suspended the day after the incident and resigned on June 13, five months after starting at Holy Cross.

Nigel Turner, her representative, said Mrs Kneen admitted having a few drinks prior to seeing a stress counsellor before going into school.

He said the can of gin and tonic in her bag was empty as she had drunk it before the appointment, but that she did not drink any more alcohol when she got to school.

Mr Turner said Mrs Kneen had been visiting psychiatrists and alcohol support groups at the time for help with her drinking problem which had been brought on by personal problems. She is still having counselling.

"There had been no incidents since her teaching career began in 1973 and she only made this one mistake," he said.

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