A TEACHER at a Wigan school who allowed pupils to drink in her home, got drunk in front of them and was convicted of public order offences has been banned from the country’s classrooms.
In a decision announced on Monday, Education Secretary Michael Gove banned Helen Pfau, 60, from teaching for at least the next three years.
The ban follows a Teaching Agency disciplinary panel finding that she was guilty of “unacceptable professional conduct” while employed at Standish Community High School.
The panel found that she allowed pupils and other children under 18 years old into her home on several occasions between about March 2009 and June 2009, and allowed them to drink alcohol there.
It found that she was drunk in front of pupils on various occasions between about March 2009 and June 2009, and received a fixed penalty notice for using abusive language in front of children, and towards a police officer on May 26, 2009.
She was also convicted of disorderly behaviour or use of threatening/abusive/insulting words likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress on June 5, 2009. She was given a conditional discharge for that.
The findings say the case related to allegations involving children who were in Year 9 and 11 at Standish Community High School, Wigan, where Ms Pfau was Head of media studies, and a 16 year old male pupil from another school who was in care at the time in question.
They continue: “Ms Pfau’s behaviour constituted misconduct of a serious nature, falling significantly short of behaviour expected of a teacher.
“It is clearly unacceptable for a teacher to allow pupils to come to their home to consume alcohol and smoke cigarettes, to get drunk in their presence and to commit public order offences.
“This is aggravated in this case by the fact that Ms Pfau was a teacher of long standing who held a senior position in the school and as such was in a position of trust and influence in relation to pupils, parents and colleagues.
“We have noted and accept that these matters occurred during a very difficult point in Ms Pfau’s life. Whilst that may explain what happened it does not excuse it and the onus was, in our view, on Ms Pfau to seek help.”
The finding say her behaviour was “incompatible with being a teacher” and that there was a serious departure from the conduct and standards expected of teachers.
In his decision imposing the ban the Secretary of State said: “There have been multiple instances of unacceptable conduct involving young people and the consumption of alcohol and tobacco. Two public order offences were also committed, one in the presence of young people.
“This is a serious abuse of Ms Pfau’s position of trust. This is particularly of concern in the case of a vulnerable pupil, Pupil A. The number of pupils involved and their age are further aggravating features.
“This case has therefore featured misconduct which either did or had the capacity to affect the education and/or well being of pupils. There appears to be a continuing risk and a risk to the protection of pupils and young people.”
The decision means that Ms Pfau is prohibited from teaching in any school, sixth form college, relevant youth accommodation or children’s home in England. She may apply for the Prohibition Order to be set aside, but not until December 31, 2015, and if she does so she will have to persuade a panel that she is fit to return to the classroom.”
She has a right of appeal to the High Court.