Kent teacher banned from classroom after she was caught drinking wine at lunchtime

Copperfield Academy
-Credit: (Image: Google Maps)

A teacher at a Kent school has been banned from the classroom after she was caught drinking wine in her parked car at lunchtime. Alison Atkins, 57, taught at Copperfield Academy, a school for primary children in Northfleet in Gravesend.

Ms Atkins had admitted to "having drunk a bottle of wine on the school premises during the school day", said the professional conduct panel for the Teaching Regulation Agency, which barred her from teaching, but allowed her to apply for a review in two years.

The panel said Ms Atkins had shown some insight and remorse about the incident and had been "open in accepting responsibility for her actions in relation to this incident".

But the panel said it had not seen any paperwork or heard oral evidence from Ms Atkins as to her ability to "manage the risk of repetition". The two year banning order would give Ms Atkins the opportunity to demonstrate her attendance and success through "relevant support services and to develop her level of insight and remorse into her actions", said decision maker on behalf of the Secretary of State, Sarah Buxcey.

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Ms Atkins had started working at Copperfield Academy in September, 2021. The drinking incident happened on or around May 12 last year at the academy in Dover Road East.

The person at the school who had seen her "drinking from a long-necked bottle" at lunchtime in her car. Ms Atkins admitted it and handed over the empty 187ml wine bottle.

She was suspended on medical grounds for the rest of the day, and three days later she was suspended. Interviews, meetings and an investigation followed during which Ms Atkins said the incident happened during lunchtime, when she was "feeling anxious, so she went to her car and had a small bottle of wine", said the panel's report.

She also said she had been "going off site at lunchtime to have an alcoholic drink". The matter was referred to the Teaching Regulation Agency on July 21 last year.

A witness at the panel said they and another person went to Ms Atkins' car and saw two bottles which had a percentage alcohol label behind the seat. The other witness "confirmed that Ms Atkins was teaching on 12 May 2023 but could not comment on how she was behaving before the incident as he did not remember seeing her, nor had anyone raised any concerns", said the panel.

Some of the hearing was held in private and in the panel's report there are many redacted words relating to Ms Atkins and more private details. Ms Atkins, who the panel heard from a witness was the "main breadwinner" in the household, did not attend the hearing and was not represented, so it went ahead in her absence.

'We terminated their employment'

A spokesperson for Copperfield Academy said: “We set high standards and have clear expectations of our staff at Copperfield and across REAch2 academy trust. In this case, this individual demonstrated unacceptable professional conduct and we took action immediately: suspending the member of staff and making referrals to the local authority and the Teachers Regulation Agency. We terminated their employment with the school following an investigation."

“Whilst situations like this are extremely rare, we understand it is upsetting news for our school community. We work hard to ensure that Copperfield is a warm and nurturing environment in which every child thrives, and we will always do everything in our power to protect that.”

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