Teacher in nightclub crack arrest goes unpunished by GTC

10th April 2009 at 01:00
`Excellent role model' is spared further sanction for class A drug possession

A science teacher arrested for possessing crack cocaine has escaped without punishment from England's General Teaching Council.

Michael Swann, who teaches at Maltby Community School in Rotherham, South Yorkshire, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct. But he avoided any further disciplinary action after he was praised by his headteacher for being a role model for pupils.

The judgment follows complaints from some teachers that the GTC - which is preparing to unveil a new code of conduct - has become too intrusive when dealing with teachers' private lives. The number of tribunals involving out-of-school offences has soared in recent years.

South Yorkshire Police had arrested Mr Swann in October 2007 for possessing the Class A drug in the early hours of a Monday morning in Rotherham's Liquid nightclub. They released him with a caution, but were obliged to report the incident to the GTC.

He is only the second teacher to escape a further disciplinary order from the professional body for carrying drugs. In September 2007, a Ms P Cain, who was also cautioned for possession of crack cocaine, was found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct by the GTC and received no sanction.

John Dunford, general secretary for the Association for School and College Leaders, said light sentencing by the GTC was unlikely to deter others from acting in the same way.

Dr Dunford said: "On the face of it, it would appear that this represents an inadequate warning to others who might set a similarly bad example to children."

The decision was also described as being "unhelpful" by drugs charity, Hope UK, which works with children and young people to make "drug-free choices".

A Hope UK spokeswoman said: "We believe that the examples that adults set have a powerful impact on children and young people, for good or ill. Parents and teachers are in a unique position to role model a healthy, drug-free lifestyle to the children and young people in their care and anything less is unhelpful, to say the least."

However, the GTC took the decision not to take any further action after looking at Mr Swann's performance as a teacher.

They also considered whether he had been guilty of any previous transgressions.

In its sanction report, the professional conduct committee said it had been impressed by Mr Swann's evidence and felt he was "a good teacher making a significant contribution to the school" and he had "much to offer the profession".

"Mr Sutton, your current headteacher, speaks of you being an excellent role model in school and, importantly, comments that your approach to this issue has always been open and honest," it said. "We believe you are genuinely sorry for what occurred and recognise its gravity. We think you have the potential to make a positive contribution to the profession."

The GTC defended its decision, and added that it looks at each case in a "fair and unbiased" manner.

Alan Meyrick, GTC registrar, said: "Each committee looks at a case on its own merits, taking into account the circumstances of the misconduct and weighing this proportionately against the history and character of the teacher and any mitigation."

"Factors taken into account in reaching decisions include: whether the incident was isolated, previous good history, whether there was impact on pupils, the likelihood of repeat behaviour and any expression of regret from the teacher."

He added that being found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct was, on its own, "a significant and serious finding against a professional."

Light touch

Three teachers have been found guilty of unacceptable professional conduct, but received no sanction. July 2005: Mr N Smith-Kearny, convicted of conspiracy to defraud. February 2006: Mr R W Lee, convicted on four counts - resistingobstructing a constable, disorderly behaviour, failing to provide a specimen for analysis, and driving a vehicle with excess alcohol. September 2007: Ms P Cain, cautioned for possessing crack cocaine.

Only two teachers have been struck off solely for drug-related allegations:

March 2005: Maureen Brown, arrested for carrying heroin, also failed to inform her headteacher of her arrest.

September 2008: Ellen Baxter, convicted for possession of amphetamine (controlled class B drug) and four grams of cannabis (controlled class C drug) on college premises.

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