Somerset teacher banned after buying pupils alcohol

A Somerset school teacher has been banned from teaching for buying pupils alcohol on a school trip and letting a teenage boy sleep in her hotel room.

A General Teaching Council (GTC) panel banned Helen Elizabeth Cox, assistant head of Somervale School in Midsomer Norton, for at least six years.

The panel heard she accepted her actions on the trips in 2005 and 2008 were unacceptable professional conduct.

She was sacked from Somervale following a disciplinary hearing in 2008.

Separate beds

The GTC panel made it clear in its judgement that Ms Cox and the 16-year-old boy had stated they slept in separate beds and that no inappropriate contact took place during the first trip to New York.

The panel was told Ms Cox had bought alcohol for three pupils in her care, who were aged 16 and 17, on the trip in 2005, and she allowed them to drink it in her hotel room.

On the same trip, she also allowed the boy, referred to as Pupil A, to stay in her room overnight without a chaperone.

She bought alcohol for four pupils on the second trip in 2008.

GTC conduct committee chairman, Paul Bird, noted in the judgement Ms Cox had supplied alcohol to under-age pupils in her care on two separate occasions, which were three years apart.

Mr Bird said: "This is not, then, a case in which it can be said that there has been an isolated error of judgment.

'Genuine remorse'

"On both occasions, she compromised her professional position and breached the trust that the parents of the children concerned had placed in her.

"Whilst the council accepts that there was no inappropriate contact between Ms Cox and pupil A, that represents a serious breach of the duty of care that she owed towards the pupil, his parents and the public at large."

He said although she had shown "genuine remorse" her behaviour had "a serious effect on pupils - rendering them liable to criminal prosecution in an overseas jurisdiction".

He said: "Her actions were fundamentally incompatible with being a registered teacher. Accordingly, the committee considered that only a prohibition order will serve to declare and uphold proper standards of conduct and behaviour and maintain public confidence in the profession."

The GTC panel sat in Birmingham and made the judgement public on Monday. The proceedings against Ms Cox were held in private.

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