'Stressed' assistant headteacher supped on gin and cider cans after meetings at Guisborough school

Laurence Jackson School in Guisborough
-Credit: (Image: Teesside Live)

A "stressed" teacher would swig gin and cider after meetings before disposing of empty cans in a school bin.

Karen Doyle appeared before a Teaching Regulation Agency misconduct panel following allegations she brought alcohol into Laurence Jackson School and drank on the job. Mrs Doyle started working for Laurence Jackson in 1996 as an English teacher and climbed up the ranks.

She was seconded to the role of acting assistant headteacher at the Guisborough school before being permanently appointed to the role in January 2020. However, according to a new report, the teacher was absent from work between May and July 2021. The report claims she felt "overwhelmed" on her phased return and was struggling to meet her responsibilities.

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In October and November 2022, the teacher resorted to drinking gin and cider while on the job and was caught on CCTV disposing of empty cans and bottles in a school bin. Her conduct came to light when on November 7, 2022, a member of staff reported they heard what sounded like a large number of empty cans or bottles being deposited in a bin at the front of the Church Lane school.

The concerns were investigated and a bag containing around eight empty cans of fruit cider together with mixed gin and tonic cans were discovered. A statement from a witness - known as Witness A - outlined that on November 9, 2022, they inspected Mrs Doyle’s office and found empty and unopened cans of fruit cider within her belongings.

In live evidence, the teacher admitted to bringing alcohol on to the school’s premises on more than one occasion. Mrs Doyle explained that she shared her office with one other individual, and that it was kept locked at all times if they were not present as it contained confidential data.

She also stated that on the first occasion she drank alcohol on the school’s premises, this was one can of fruit cider. She admitted that she had drunk up to four cans of fruit cider on three or four separate occasions on the school’s premises, and one can of mixed gin and tonic, during school hours.

The report reads: "Mrs Doyle accepted that drinking any amount of alcohol on the school’s premises was 'totally unacceptable'. Mrs Doyle explained that she did not drink the alcohol before she taught any lessons, and on the occasions that she did drink this was in the afternoon such as after a particularly difficult meeting. Mrs Doyle did admit that she may have had other responsibilities after having consumed alcohol, such as monitoring pupils in social areas."

The teacher was formally suspended on November 16, 2022, and her employment at the school ceased on January 5, 2023. The panel was satisfied that the conduct of Mrs Doyle, involved breaches of the Teachers’ Standards.

It took into account evidence from Mrs Doyle where she claimed the implementation of the phased return meant her working time was reduced but her responsibilities were not reduced proportionately. The panel was presented with character references in the bundle from family, friends and former colleagues. One person stated that Mrs Doyle “has been one of the most dedicated members of staff I have ever worked with", “going above and beyond for the school community”, “had excellent classroom and behaviour management skills” and her “caring and compassionate nature is there for all to see”.

The panel decided publication of the findings would be sufficient and did not make her subject of a prohibition order. The report reads: "Mrs Doyle had consumed alcohol for a limited period of time during a period of significant personal and work stress.

"I have noted remarks regarding her contribution to education, the mitigations presented and the steps she has taken to ensure that the misconduct found will not be repeated in the future. I have concluded that a prohibition order is not proportionate or in the public interest.

"I consider that the publication of the findings made would be sufficient to send an appropriate message to the teacher as to the standards of behaviour that were not acceptable and that the publication would meet the public interest requirement of declaring proper standards of the profession."

In response to the hearing, a spokesperson for Vision Academy Learning Trust, the trust which Laurence Jackson School is a part of, said: “All teachers are bound by professional standards for the protection of children and to meet the expectations of parents and colleagues. The trust considers the safeguarding and wellbeing of our students to be an absolute priority and in this case has followed all appropriate processes to ensure it has upheld its statutory and moral duties.”

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