'Superb' teacher became an alcoholic

21st July 2006 at 01:00
A teacher who drank alcohol at work and was seen by pupils slumped in a gutter has been struck off the register for at least two years.

England's General Teaching Council heard how Helen Shackley had been found drunk or under the influence of alcohol on five occasions at three schools between December 2003 and September 2004.

In a statement, Ms Shackley, who was neither present or represented, said:

"To my shame I have to admit that these allegations have foundation. I have no explanation but to say that I have long- standing depression and distress."

Ms Shackley started at Queensbury school, in Birmingham in September 1999.

William Warriner, the headteacher, told the committee that in December 2003, Ms Shackley had become "unsteady on her feet with glazed eyes" while at a school disco. She told him that she had had an adverse reaction to her diabetic medication after two glasses of sherry. He said: "I did not believe her explanation - but I wanted to support her."

Early in 2004, a pupil alerted a member of staff to the fact that Ms Shackley was ill outside the school. Mr Warriner said: "The teacher found Ms Shackley slumped in a gutter, holding on to a bus stop post." Again she put it down to a reaction to her diabetes medication. Four months later, Mr Warriner prevented Ms Shackley from giving a talk to parents after noticing her "odd manner" and believing that she smelled of alcohol.

Ms Shackley, who did not accept she had a problem with alcohol, was suspended that day pending a disciplinary investigation. She submitted her letter of resignation on July 6, 2004.

Mr Warriner said: "She was a dramatic and engaging woman who would capture and motivate pupils. I feel it is tragic - a waste. If she wasn't an alcoholic she could be a superb teacher."

The committee heard that Ms Shackley then worked as a supply teacher in two schools, one a special school, in Dudley. At both she was found to have been under the influence of alcohol.

Ralph Ullmann, chair of the GTC committee, said: "Ms Shackley was in charge of a vulnerable group of children and was unfit because she was under the influence of alcohol. We consider that in those circumstances there was a potential risk to the safety of pupils in her care."

Mrs Shackley can apply to be put back on the teaching register in two years.

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