Drink-driver beats ban from the classroom

5th March 2010 at 00:00
Panel shows leniency to teacher who suffered alcoholism and depression around break-up

A Stirling physics teacher convicted of a serious drink-driving offence has been allowed to continue working in the profession, after explaining he was recovering from a troubled period in his life.

Ewan McGeer had nearly five times the legal limit of alcohol in his system when he caused an accident, and was later fined pound;1,000 and given a three- year driving ban.

But the General Teaching Council for Scotland's disciplinary sub-committee showed leniency last week after Mr McGeer, 29, explained that he was recovering from depression and alcoholism.

Mr McGeer, who works at Wallace High, had struggled with depression after the break-up of a relationship. His problems were exacerbated by alcohol - although he stressed his drinking had never affected his teaching - and an incident outside his girlfriend's flat in August 2008, when he heard a murder being committed. He was summoned to give evidence in court three times, although he was never called.

Mr McGeer, of Alva, had been off work for some time as a result of his problems, but a return to work was planned in which he would gradually build up the amount of days he worked.

But on his first day back at work on January 21, 2009, problems resurfaced: "I think I knew I couldn't do it, and that added to the feeling of anxiety and uselessness, and general depression," he said.

Later that night, he got into his car after drinking the best part of a bottle of vodka, intending to drive from Partick, Glasgow, to his parents' home in Gourock.

En route he caused an accident, in which no one else was involved. When breathalysed, he was found to have 167 micrograms of alcohol per 100 millilitres of breath; the legal limit is 35 micrograms.

While accepting that he had knowingly got into his car - an act of which he was "deeply ashamed" - he told the sub-committee that his drink problem meant "you don't make the decision, the alcohol makes the decision".

Following his conviction on March 10, Mr McGeer entered a rehabilitation programme and resolved never to drink again. Separate letters from a doctor, a nurse and social workers confirmed "strong progress".

Wendy McLean, manager of Wallace High's science faculty, said Mr McGeer was working four days a week, getting back to the high level he had shown previously, and that pupils would not notice a difference between him now and before his problems.

Mr McGeer emphasised the support he had received from his mother - who is headteacher at Glenburn, a special school in Greenock - and his father, Joseph McGeer, co-ordinator of the chartered teacher programme at the University of the West of Scotland and former head of education at Argyll and Bute Council. Mr McGeer Snr said that, in retrospect, his son had returned to work too early.

The sub-committee threw out an argument that the incident was not relevant to Mr McGeer's work, since the GTCS's code of conduct made clear that the public must have confidence in teachers, and that teachers should be role models. His lawyer, Andrew Gibb, had argued that teachers with speeding and parking tickets might also be poor role models.

But he was not struck off, despite GTCS lawyer Paul Marshall arguing that, on the night of his drink-driving, Mr McGeer "didn't seem to grasp the severity of drinking to that level and the potential impact".

The sub-committee ruled that, for the next five years, he must produce annual reports from his headteacher and a medical practitioner to show that he has not lapsed back into his old behaviour, and he must not incur any more convictions.



A total of 45 drink-driving convictions (out of 130 convictions in all) involving registered teachers were reported to the GTCS between April 1, 2007, and March 1, 2010.

- Two teachers were struck off

- One teacher was given a formal reprimand

- One teacher was given a conditional registration order

- One case is still ongoing

- 40 teachers faced no disciplinary action.

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