Teacher turned up to school smelling of drink, and was drunk in the classroom

A recreation area at the new St Mary's Catholic High School building in Leyland
A recreation area at the new St Mary's Catholic High School building in Leyland

A Lancashire teacher who admitted turning up at school smelling of drink, taking drink to school with her and drinking at school has been given the go-ahead to carry on teaching.

Wendy Dickinson, 45, who was head of art at the troubled St Mary’s Catholic High School in Leyland, also admitted a drink drive conviction and that in 2014 she had been cautioned by police for an offence of “assault/ill-treat/neglect/abandon a child or young person, to cause unnecessary suffering or injury contrary to the Children and Young Persons Act 1993.”

Firefighters tackle a huge fire at St Mary's Catholic Technology College, Leyland, Lancashire on 2 September 2013..'Still from Guzelian copyright video.

Firefighters tackle a huge fire at St Mary's Catholic Technology College, Leyland, Lancashire on 2 September 2013..'Still from Guzelian copyright video.

She no longer works at the school.

A National College of Teaching and Leadership panel, which heard the case in Coventry, found her guilty of unacceptable professional conduct that could bring the teaching profession into disrepute.

In their findings the panel say : “It is not in dispute that Ms Dickinson brought alcohol into the school, stored it in a classroom, and consumed some whilst at school. It is said that in doing so, pupils may have been put at risk, although that risk is not identified by the NCTL.”

The findings add that the panel had received evidence from the executive Headteacher in which he stated that on December 2, 2015 she was teaching at 12:05 pm and that he could smell alcohol on her breath.

He said that later that day he searched her bag, he found an empty 250ml bottle of wine and a two-thirds empty 250ml wine bottle, as well as further empty bottle in the classroom bin.

The findings say that the panel considered Ms Dickinson had fallen “significantly short of the standards expected of the profession.”

They say there was no evidence before it of any harm caused to children by her drinking habits but added: “The secreting of alcohol into the school, drinking it on the premises, and being under its influence, has the potential to affect pupils in a harmful way.

“It is quite inappropriate for teachers to be under the influence of alcohol during the course of teaching.”

However, the panel recommended that she should not, as invariably happen to teachers who face NCTL disciplinary proceedings, be banned from the country’s classrooms.

The panel heard evidence that she had been under considerable pressure and undue pressure at work and highlight an Ofsted report which referred to senior leadership at the school creating a “culture of fear and mistrust.”

The school had suffered a series of problems, including an arson attack in September 2013 which destroyed large parts of the school.

The following year the school was put in to Special Measures by Ofsted, and in 2015 headteacher Kathy McNicholas quite suddenly, just six weeks before the end of term. She had suffered problems with morale and staffing, and teachers had held a one-day strike in protest.

The panel heard that in 2015, some 20 teachers had been signed off ill with stress at one point, but Ms Dickinson continued to work.

They say that given the circumstances and the fact Ms Dickinson is “making considerable progress to improving her condition” they did not consider striking her off would be a “proportionate or appropriate response.”

Alan Meyrick, deputy director of the NCTL said the panel’s findings amounted to a “clear indication that behaviours that were demonstrated by Ms Dickinson are unacceptable.”

However, he said that on balance he agreed with the panel that it would not be proportionate or appropriate to strike her off.

In January 2016, Philip Mooney was appointed as the new headteacher, and since then the school has improved steadily, with Ofsted giving it a Good rating at its last inspection.

Mr Mooney said: “Wendy Dickinson was an experienced and effective Art Teacher at St Mary’s Leyland.

“As soon as it became clear on 2 December 2015 that there was an issue the school acted quickly to address it.

“Ms Dickinson has not taught in school since then and her teacher contract was terminated in spring this year.”