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Costly rise in injury payouts

Union leaders south of the border have blamed dilapidated buildings and badly behaved pupils for the rise in compensation claims by teachers which last year led to more than pound;12 million in payouts.

The National Association of Schoolmaster Union of Women Teachers won a total of more than pound;6.7 million for members - almost pound;700,000 more than the year before. This included pound;1.2 million for personal injury claims for 89 teachers. One of the largest sums, pound;140,000, was for a member who tripped on an ill-fitting carpet. Another tripped on a step on the edge of a netball court while umpiring, and received pound;77,603.

North of the border, the Educational Institute of Scotland reports that it won pound;250,000 in compensation and legal expenses for members in schools, colleges and universities as a result of accidents and attacks in 2004. As in England, the main risk appears to stem from slips, trips and falls. But the biggest award of pound;80,000 was for a lecturer exposed to hazardous chemicals.

These figures were "a clear signal that not enough is being done to ensure the safety of teaching staff", Ronnie Smith, the union's general secretary, said.

Compensation in England also followed employment tribunals, while two teachers had out-of-court settlements of more than pound;200,000 each for stress-related claims. A teacher assaulted in a secure unit won an estimated pound;250,000 following a trial but this award is now subject to appeal. A teacher injured when a pupil threw a stool at her was awarded Pounds 155,030.

The National Union of Teachers claimed almost pound;2 million in 2004 for 200 injuries to members. Total payouts could reach pound;6 million. The union said that the number of cases reflected the poor state of school buildings.

One head of technology in Worcestershire won pound;220,000 after contracting asthma due to breathing in wood and metal dust. The family of a teacher secured pound;135,237 after she developed a mesothelioma and died following exposure to asbestos dust. A music teacher in North East Lincolnshire, who developed tinnitus following exposure to loud instruments, was paid pound;40,000.

Violent pupils caused a series of incidents. A teacher in Newcastle upon Tyne won pound;5,000 after a pupil poured boiling water over him and a teacher from the south-east received pound;16,000 after a pupil catapulted a rubber into her eye.

The biggest payout, for pound;232,500, went to a teacher from the south-west who fell from a ladder as he was moving lights for the school show.

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