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Former headteacher at Fairstead House School, in Newmarket, cleared of professional misconduct

The former headteacher of a Newmarket primary school has been cleared of unprofessional conduct following a five-day hearing during which she admitted drinking wine while children were on the school's premises.

Members of a teaching regulation panel also ruled the actions of Dr Lynda Brereton, who was headteacher at the £13,000-a year independent Fairstead House School for six years, did not constitute conduct that would bring the teaching profession into disrepute.

Dr Brereton, who took over at the Fordham Road school in September 2015 after being head of King's Ely Acremont, resigned in 2021 after a whistleblower came forward with allegations about her conduct.

Former headteacher Dr Lynda Brereton was cleared of professional misconduct
Former headteacher Dr Lynda Brereton was cleared of professional misconduct

As well as drinking alcohol on school premises during school hours, and when children were on the site, she faced additional accusations of keeping alcohol in insecure places, displaying unprofessional conduct due to alcohol and encouraging a culture of drinking amongst staff, all of which she denied.

The panel heard allegations from the school’s then deputy headteacher Michael Radford, that at a cricket match when Fairstead pupils had been playing at Exning Dr Brereton had been unable to drive the school minibus as planned because she had been drinking.

Dr Brereton said she had dropped the pupils off then driven back to the school to collect the match day tea for them and their parents. She and another, referred to as Person A, then went back to Exning where she had a Pimms.

Dr Brereton told the panel she had not been aware of any expectation she would have to drive the minibus later in the day. The allegation was dismissed.

The hearing heard that Dr Brereton had provided wine on Fridays after school to build bonds between staff working on the weekly parents' newsletter.

When the practice started it had been outside normal school hours but as those hours increased to accommodate various school clubs, and wraparound care, the timing of the drinks did not change so it was happening in school time.

The panel found Dr Brereton had, albeit unintentionally and unwittingly, encouraged a culture of alcohol consumption but had not kept alcohol in an unsecure location.

Throughout the hearing Dr Brereton, who was referred to by her counsel Jonathan Storey as a dynamic and visionary leader, maintained she had never drunk alcohol in front of children.

She also denied allegations around safeguarding practices including that she had failed to take action in respect of a safeguarding concern.

Dismissing the allegations the panel chairman said members had been left in no doubt as to the high priority Dr Brereton gave to safeguarding.