The ex-headteacher of a prep school who has been accused of drinking on the premises broke down in tears as she said she did not believe at the time that her actions were against policy.

Dr Lynda Brereton was headteacher at independent Fairstead House School in Newmarket from 2015 until 2021, when she resigned after a whistleblower reported the allegations.

She stands accused of drinking on the school premises during school hours and while children were on-site, storing alcohol in unsecure places, including science lab fridges, and having problems surrounding safeguarding practices.

A Teaching Regulation Agency misconduct panel heard evidence from Dr Brereton, who has admitted that she consumed alcohol while pupils were on the site but denied all other allegations. 

She told the panel the accusation that she drunk wine while children were in her office under her supervision was false and drinking would take place after school when staff came together to write the newsletter.

Dr Brereton said she never had alcohol in front of children, no more than a bottle would be consumed between staff and she would never have more than two glasses to herself. 

"At the time I thought, according to the policy, it was alright, not around the children, but to have a glass of wine when writing the newsletter," she told the panel.

"Now I would have done anything to change that," she added, as she broke down in tears. 

Dr Brereton said the policy concerning alcohol on the premises was "not clear".

Then-deputy-headteacher Michael Radford alleged that there was one occasion at a cricket match in Exning when, due to drinking, Dr Brereton had been unable to drive the children in a minibus as planned. 

Dr Brereton said she drove the children to the match in mini bus that morning, drove back to the school where she helped prepare the cricket tea, travelled back to the cricket match with the tea in Person A's car, and then at the match had a glass of Pimms with parents, returning to school in Person A's car. 

She said: "I would obviously never have had that glass of Pimms had I been expecting to drive that minibus."

Dr Brereton disputed an accusation that the filing of safeguarding concerns was a "complete mess" and did not accept that files were "a year out of date". 

In response to an allegation that she encouraged staff not to report safeguarding concerns, she said: "I very much encouraged a culture of safeguarding. Safeguarding was taken very seriously. 

"I had my logging sheets all around school, everybody knew where they were, in public places such as staff rooms and corridors, but also in more private places like loos." 

Tearfully, she told the panel: "I miss schools dreadfully and miss the children. Just watching them develop, watching their love for learning develop, seeing their excitement."

The hearing continues on Thursday.