Teacher ‘too drunk to stand’ at school avoids ban

Teacher whose blood alcohol in school hours was so high she couldn't breathe properly has avoided a ban from profession

A teacher has avoided being banned from the profession after being found drunk at school

A teacher who was found in school by colleagues so drunk she was unable to stand or breathe has avoided being banned from the profession.

Claire Bourne, a Latin teacher at Newton Prep School in London, was found by her colleagues leaning against a wall unable to stand, a panel for the Teaching Regulation Agency has heard.

Ms Bourne taught both classics and Latin to Years 5 to 7.

During lesson hours when she was supposed to be invigilating an exam, Ms Bourne was found unable to “speak coherently,” “unsteady on her feet”, “unable to stand without being supported” and “unable to breathe properly”.

The school nurse subsequently drove Ms Bourne to the Accident and Emergency Department at Chelsea and Westminster Hospital. At approximately 2.30pm, the attending doctor confirmed she had a blood alcohol level of above 300mg/dl. 

Mrs Bourne fully accepted that she had been under the influence of alcohol during the school day. A further allegation that she failed to invigilate the exam was not found to be proven, as “although it was apparent that she was unfit to perform her duties at the time, there was evidence that Ms Bourne did at least attend”, according to the TRA’s report.

Teacher found drunk at school

The panel concluded that Ms Bourne had behaved in a way that was “inappropriate and unacceptable for a teacher” and that her behaviour amounted to a potential safeguarding issue.

The panel considered mitigating factors, such as Ms Bourne’s previous good history in the profession, as she had “a long career in education and an otherwise unblemished record”. Ms Bourne had shown clear insight into the effect of her actions and there was evidence she had several ongoing personal difficulties at the time relating to family, health and work-related pressures.

The panel’s report also noted that it was “apparent that Ms Bourne had since made commendable efforts to address the issues which she has asserted led to her acting as she did”.

However, in light of the effect her actions may have had on the protection of pupils, as well as public confidence in the profession, the panel recommended that the publication of her behaviour would “be sufficient to send an appropriate message to the teacher as to the standards of behaviour that were not acceptable”.

Ms Bourne confirmed that she did not currently desire to return to the profession.

Alan Meyrick, acting on behalf of the secretary of state, said that he had placed considerable weight on the panel’s comments regarding Ms Bourne’s remorse over her actions and found that a permanent ban would “deprive the public of her contribution to the profession”.

He therefore concluded a ban from the classroom was not proportionate in this instance.

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