A RECEPTION teacher at an Abertillery school who drunk alcohol while at work has been banned from teaching for two years.

Hanna Edwards, a reception class teacher at the Abertillery Learning Community, was handed a two-year prohibition order after four allegations against her were found to be proven by an Education Workforce Council professional standards committee today, October 12.

Edwards originally faced allegations from colleagues after she was suspected of drinking alcohol in the classroom. These concerns were brought to the attention of the EWC after she was suspended for leaving a bottle of alcohol in her classroom with five-year-olds.

The plastic bottle contained a purple liquid, which she had informed colleagues she had accidentally been in her bag from a festival the weekend before. She said she had taken a sip but then left it.

The EWC’s professional standards committee heard from witnesses while sitting remotely on October 10 and 11.

ALC lower school head Marie Lewis said she had been made aware of the concerns in September 2018, and when she went to speak to Edwards she noticed “the smell of alcohol was noticeably stronger” than when the issue had been previously raised.

Staff said that Edwards “did not appear to be acting under the influence” despite the smell and was never described as drunk.

On each occasion, Edwards told colleagues she thought the smell was part of a medical issue, and she would seek help.

Mrs Lewis informed the hearing that her concerns escalated on October 4, 2018, after finding the bottle on the desk, in easy reach of young children. She tested the liquid and “it tasted strongly of alcohol” after Edwards had been seen drinking from it.

Mrs Lewis described Edwards’ behaviour on October 4 during a conversation as “emotional and erratic”, which she felt could be put down to Edwards’ mental state.

Primary resource lead Kathryn Webber told the hearing that she was told Edwards refused to stand near people in the classroom due to her being unwell, but upon being confronted with “the smell and feel on my lips” she was convinced it was alcohol.

Upon returning to work in November 2019, Edwards was again confronted about smelling of alcohol.

She admitted the allegation of leaving a bottle containing alcohol within reach of children but denied the three others: consuming alcohol on school premises, attending work smelling or under the influence of alcohol and that the issues constituted “unacceptable professional conduct”.

However, the panel found all that all four allegations were proven, highlighting Edwards’ “lack of insight” and “unwillingness to admit wrongdoing” as key factors. They did, however, find that she was not under the influence.

The chair said these allegations demonstrated a clear “departure of principles set out in the code of conduct”.

The panel also concluded that the proportionality of the protection of the public interest, in particular the wellbeing of the children, overwhelmed Edwards’ interest.

The prohibition order means that Edwards is banned from teaching for at least two years. She can reapply to the EWC’s register but will have to satisfy a restoration committee that she is fit to work.