Heroin case teacher's return is welcomed

10th October 2008 at 01:00
Decision to give her another chance is right, says support network leader

The general Teaching Council for Wales was right to allow a woman caught in possession of heroin to return to teaching, a support group leader said this week.

Patrick Nash, chief executive of Teacher Support Network, said the council's professional conduct committee took the right and sensible approach in giving 29-year-old Emma Jones a second chance.

It would have been wrong to strike her off the teaching register, he said. Mr Nash said it was not unusual for teachers to suffer anxiety, stress and depression, but it was rare for them to turn to drugs.

Miss Jones, of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Gwynedd, can teach again despite receiving a police caution for having the class A drug in her car, parked outside her school gates in March last year.

She told the hearing in Ewloe last week that she is no longer taking drugs and wanted to return to teaching. Police found the substances in the boot and glove compartment of her car as parents and pupils arrived at Ysgol y Traeth Primary School in Barmouth.

She told the hearing that she had "stupidly and irrationally turned to drugs" while suffering from acute anxiety during her suspension the previous year after two teaching assistants had 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 then gave her a final written warning after the drugs had been discovered.

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 her arrest.

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

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

Peter Williams, the committee's chair, said possessing class A drugs was "fundamentally incompatible" with continuing as a teacher, but said she did not pose a significant risk of repeating her behaviour.

Mr Myfyr 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."

Staff must `keep their distance from pupils'

Gary Brace, chief executive of the General Teaching Council for Wales, has criticised comments about sexual relationships between teachers and pupils made by Chris Keates, the NASUWT general secretary, on ITV's Tonight programme.

Ms Keates said it was an "anomaly" that a teacher who had sex with a pupil aged 16 or over should be placed on the sex offenders register. But Mr Brace said teachers must maintain a distance from all pupils, regardless of age.

"We should not even be in the territory of questioning whether or not teachers can have a sexual relationship with pupils older than 16, whether in their own school or another," he said.

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