Angela Simonson, 66, was a teacher at Central Primary School in Port Talbot at the time of the claims in 2014. An Education Workforce Council hearing was told how Mrs Simonson knocked into a child whilst drunk, left an open can of Stella Artois in her classroom cupboard and was seen stumbling and slurring over her words. The year four teacher denied being under the influence of alcohol. The panel suspended Mrs Simonson from teaching for two years.
Concerns were raised about Mrs Simonson’s behaviour in December 2014.
Colleagues reported Angela Simonson as “stinking of drink” and struggling to stay on her feet.
Christine Jarvis, a lunchtime supervisor at Central Primary School told Wales Online at the time that Mrs Simonson was “stumbling” and “needed something to help her stand upright” in the playground during the lunchtime break.
She added: “Mrs Simonson was stumbling and it was like she was using the wall to help her stand.
“In her normal behaviour, she could stand up normally and was well co-ordinated. She often wore high-heeled shoes.
“Mrs Simonson was not behaving normally. She didn’t do what she usually did – instead of coming to the front of the line of children she leaned against the wall, she staggered to the classroom.
“She knocked into one of the children, waved her hands in the air and leaned against the wall.
“She was quite literally falling over drunk.”
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Jonathan Toft, who worked alongside Mrs Simonson said: “I realised I could smell alcohol on Angela. She was unfocused and couldn’t remember what had been discussed at the meeting later.
“She was slurring, staggering and stinking of drink. We could smell it in the room, everybody could smell it”.
Mrs Simonson, who was not present at the EWC hearing, said in a written statement that she could “neither recall nor explain” what Mr Toft was describing.
Another teacher at the school, Anna-Marie Parsons, said she found Mrs Simonson “in great distress” sitting on a desk in her classroom on December 8.
She added: “She would do anything for anybody, but things just weren’t right with Mrs Simonson at that point.”
Angela Simonson was an educator for 40 years. She’s been described as a “lovely teacher that was quite eccentric” and a “lovely person with an exuberant character”.
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Robert Purchase, who was the headteacher at the time, told the hearing an open and almost full can of Stella Artois was found “under the sink” in her classroom.
“It wasn’t a locked cupboard. The cupboard could have been accessed by a pupil at any time.”
Represented at the hearing by her legal counsel Jonathan Storey, Mrs Simonson disputed claims that her actions were because of drinking alcohol in school.
He argued his client’s actions had been due to a combination of side-effects from the medication she was taking, wearing a new pair of high-heeled boots and an ongoing issue of having “bad breath” because of a low-carbohydrate diet.
However, he acknowledged his client had “been drinking at home during a dinner party with friends” until around 11pm the night before.
She had, he said, consumed around three-quarters of a bottle of wine during that Sunday evening and “the dregs – no more than 50mls” from a can of beer when doing the washing up the following morning because she was “thirsty”.
“In hindsight, I realise this was unprofessional and I’m sorry. It is impossible that this small amount of alcohol would have caused by unsteadiness,” Mrs Simonson, 66, said in a written statement.
And her legal counsel Mr Storey argued that if Mrs Simonson did smell of alcohol, it did not prove that she consumed it before work or at work.
He added: “It’s perfectly possible to smell of alcohol having consumed it the night before and we know that Mrs Simonson had consumed a fair bit of alcohol the night before at a dinner party”
He also said that Mrs Simonson’s classroom was not locked and that a number of people would have had access to the room and the opportunity to place a can of beer in the cupboard under the sink.
The Education Workforce Council panel found all allegations against Mrs Simonson proved.
The hearing ruled these breaches amounted to a “lack of integrity” and “unacceptable professional conduct”.
In her closing remarks, Presenting Officer Cadi Dewi said: “These were primary school-age children, aged 8 and 9, she was their teacher.
“It was morally reprehensible behaviour and it was very clearly unacceptable.”
Steve Powell, Lay Chair, said: Mrs Simonson was of good character and [the committee] has confirmed its deliberations to these allegations alone.
“She has not demonstrated any significant insight into her behaviour, instead of addressing her shortcomings Mrs Simonson repeated her conduct in a single week in December 2014.
The panel suspended Mrs Simonson from teaching for two years.
If she wishes to return to the profession has to provide regular assessments to the EWC about her health in order to assess her fitness to work.
Additional reporting John Cooper.