Boozy teacher struck off

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By Cara Sulieman

A DRUNKEN primary teacher has been struck off after getting smashed on a school trip she was running.

Marian Bruce, 55, was in charge of around 30 P6 and P7 pupils during a three-day trip to an outdoor centre near Dunoon.

But Bruce asked a colleague to buy her vodka before displaying “odd” behaviour and stumbling about the halls where the children were sleeping.

Concerned workmates – including a probationary teacher – had to step-in and take charge of the trip.

And, after returning to St Mary’s Primary in Paisley, furious parents complained about the boozy Miss, leading to her suspension.

“Uncomfortable”

Bruce retired before Renfrewshire Council could proceed with disciplinary procedures.

But yesterday (Thursday) she was struck-off the teaching register at a conduct hearing of the General Teaching Council.

David Keenan – a probation teacher at St Mary’s – said that Mrs Bruce had suggested he buy the staff a bottle of vodka on the first night.

Mr Keenan told the disciplinary sub-committee of the GTC that he had been asked to go to nearby Dunoon and get some supplies.

He said: “Mrs Bruce had asked me earlier in the day to buy a bottle of vodka. She thought it would be a good idea for the staff to have a drink and bond.

“I was a bit uncomfortable about it and only bought a half bottle.”

On that night – Wednesday March 5 – the staff members had two small vodkas each.

“Confused”

But it was later on in the week that Mr Keenan and the other teacher Karen Park became concerned about their colleague’s behaviour.

Miss Park told the hearing – led by convener Carole Ford – that she had first noticed the odd behaviour when the children were making a thank-you banner on the Thursday morning.

She said: “All of the members of staff were there with all of the children. Mrs Bruce thought it would be nice to make a thank-you banner for the staff at Castle Toward.

“When the activity started it soon became clear that Mrs Bruce was confused.

“The instructions were not clear and David and I had to take over.”

Later that night, Mr Keenan said that he had become concerned about Mrs Bruce’s behaviour as they tried to put the children to bed.

He said: “I could hear singing coming from the girls’ dormitory and could tell it was Mrs Bruce. I just hoped that she wouldn’t come down the boys’ corridor where I was as we were trying to get the kids settled for bed.

“She did come down later and she was stumbling against the walls. I didn’t say anything to her then because I was only a probation teacher and she was charge.”

Similar behaviour was noticed by centre staff.

“Look of mistrust”

Vicky Neville was the depute head of Castle Toward at the time and was worried about Mrs Bruce.

Mrs Neville told the hearing: “On the Friday morning when I was doing my good-bye talk, Marian spoke after me to the children.

“I was aware of looking round the children’s faces and seeing a look of mistrust.

“The children should have been able to trust implicitly the leader that came away with the school.

“I wouldn’t say she was slurring but she was trying very hard to pronounce her words.”

It was not just staff members who noticed something wrong with Mrs Bruce. Once the party had returned to St Mary’s Primary School on Friday afternoon a parent complained to Miss Park.

Miss Park said: “A classroom assistant came up to my classroom to say that there was an irate parent in the foyer who wanted to speak to someone.

“I went down to speak to them and they told me that Marian had answered the door to them and they could smell alcohol on her breath.”

“Genuine risk”

Later that afternoon Miss Park and Mr Keenan reported Mrs Bruce to the school headteacher.

Mrs Bruce was suspended and an investigation was launched by Renfrewshire Council.

But Mrs Bruce had already been granted early retirement and the procedure was never completed.

Robert Naylor, head of resource services at the local authority, told the hearing: “An interview with Mrs Bruce never took place as after her suspension she signed off sick before retiring.

“Had the final interview taken place I believe the report would have recommended that a disciplinary hearing take place.

“If Mrs Bruce applied to be a teacher with the council in the future we would restart disciplinary procedure.”

Representing the GTC, solicitor Robbie Burnet said: “There was genuine risk that the welfare of children could have been at risk if something had happened.

“It was also extremely unfair on the other two teachers who were there – the person who they were concerned about was in charge of the trip.”

“No remorse”

Delivering the sub-committee’s verdict Carole Ford, the convenor, said that Mrs Bruce had shown “no remorse”.

She said: “The committee arrived at this view after taking into account the following factors.

“She was a senior member of staff and had a leading role during the trip.

“She was observed to be under the influence of alcohol at various stages over a period of 48 hours.

“She displayed no insight into the seriousness of her actions, and appeared to show no remorse.”

Mrs Bruce’s defence lawyer Andrew Gibb said that she had been distressed because of her brother’s illness.

He said: “On the week in question she had been told on the Wednesday that her brother was critically ill and indeed it was thought he might die.

“She got little sleep worrying about her brother in that week.”

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