Teacher denies conduct allegations

A DRAMA teacher allegedly allowed sixth formers to drink to excess at post production parties while consuming so much liquor herself that she would vomit and pass out.

A DRAMA teacher allegedly allowed sixth formers to drink to excess at post production parties while consuming so much liquor herself that she would vomit and pass out.

Jo Bowen, formerly of Kesgrave High School, Ipswich, who denies the claims, is facing a General Teaching Council hearing in Birmingham.

She faces several charges of unacceptable professional conduct.

The GTC heard Ms Bowen "was keen on after-show parties" and would "pick the students she wanted and excluded others".

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Deputy headteacher Nigel Burgoyne said: "She organised a party after a production of Romeo and Juliet in December 2002 and allowed herself and pupils to drink to excess. She encouraged sixth formers to drink alcohol and she and students were drunk and she was observed in the toilets vomiting and later passed out.

“One A level student at the party after the Romeo and Juliet play told me that she was too frightened to call her parents because her teacher had passed out asleep.”

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Another teacher, Rachel Jones, said: “At the party at midnight Ms Bowen told us to clear up and put everything away.

“Then when the others had gone, some sixth formers came out of hiding in the bushes in the car park and the party carried on.

“When we left they were drinking. There were about 10 of them drunk. I was upset at the under age sixth form students there - she had organised the party."

Drama teacher Stuart Race told the GTC hearing: "After a production of Grease in 2001, I wanted to leave the party at about 2am, she was very drunk. But she told me that she was the head of the department and so she made the decisions.

“When she invited me and Cameron Goodman to the after Romeo and Juliet party, we didn't want to go after what happened the year before, but you can't say no to her.

“We attended to avoid confrontation, it was held in a scout hut and attended by sixth formers and three teachers. The students were drinking shots and other drinks.

“We left at 12.30am after the awards, but Ms Bowen told me afterwards that the party had gone on until 5.30am."

Headteacher George Thomas ordered his deputy Mr Burgoyne to start an investigation into the allegations in September 2003. He said after the hearing that Ms Bowen had no interest in returning in teaching.

In her defence Ms Bowen told the GTC Committee that when she first learned of the allegations she was totally shocked.

She explained to the committee that she refuted the allegations of inappropriate behaviour with students, saying she didn't stage the after-show parties, that in fact they were organised and paid for by parents.

Ms Bowen, who told the GTC she had a previously unblemished record, said: “Yes I did take alcohol to parties. At the Romeo and Juliet party there were students drinking and being sick.

“I was only a guest at the party, I was not responsible for their drinking.

“I believe I did not fail. In all my seven years nobody raised any questions about my teaching methods.

“I am most saddened by these allegations. I spent an enormous amount of time with my students, well over and above normal working.”

She admitted to drinking wine, but not to being drunk. “I did drink wine,” she recalled, “but I did not drink to excess or pass out.”

She continued: “I have always acted in good faith to support my pupils, and I refute completely that I failed to ensure students were taught the right syllabus, or that I behaved inappropriately with students.

“I have never got angry and lost my temper with colleagues. The allegations are lies.”

Ms Bowen is also accused of forging pupils signatures on their examination papers and failing to keep proper financial records for expenses for a school show.

She added: “I did write the names of the students in the place where the students should have signed. I made no attempt to forge their signatures, I just wrote in their names.

“I bitterly regret this action now and realise it was a mistake, a grave error of judgement."

The hearing was adjourned until January when the GTC will decide whether she is guilty of unacceptable professional conduct.

Suffolk County Council declined to comment on the case.

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