A teacher awarded £110,000 after falling into a pothole in her school’s driveway was among hundreds of school staff who received record payouts of more than £26 million last year.
The money was handed to hundreds of teachers as the result of compensation claims for injuries and attacks, as well as in compromise agreements and employment tribunals.
The cases included claims for unlawful deduction of wages, unfair dismissal, breach of contract and discrimination on the grounds of sex, disability and age.
The NASUWT teaching union helped its members to win more than £20 million in 2013, up a third on the previous year, with the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) winning more than £5 million for its members. The National Union of Teachers (NUT) released details of just a small selection of cases, meaning the overall figure is likely to be far higher.
The largest payout made public was for a 33-year-old secondary school teacher in the West Midlands, who received almost £114,000 for serious physical injuries sustained when she was assaulted by two pupils after trying to break up a fight in a “dangerously high balcony area”.
She suffered injuries to her face, head, neck, arm and shoulder, and subsequently developed fibromyalgia and severe post-traumatic stress disorder. The teacher was unable to return to work after the incident, the NASUWT revealed.
The largest payout made public by the NUT was the £110,000 received by a teacher who suffered a dislocated ankle and ligament tear when she fell into a deep hole in the school’s driveway. Another member was unable to attend work after injuring her shoulder slipping on an icy ramp on the school site. She received £79,000.
Another teacher received £37,000 in compensation for discrimination on the grounds of gender reassignment and disability. A design and technology teacher received £3,000 after being dismissed on the grounds of gross misconduct related to students’ controlled assessments. Despite the NUT admitting the merits of the teacher's case were "not strong”, it managed to secure the compensation on the grounds of preventing further expensive legal proceedings.
"Behind every one of these cases is a person who has been damaged physically or mentally, either because of injury or unfair dismissal,” said NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates. “The distress and pressure of the incident to the individual teacher and their family has often been compounded by years of legal action and court proceedings before any award is made. While compensation is important, it can never make up for the fact that many of these teachers suffer permanent physical and mental injury and often cannot continue in their chosen career.”
She added that more cases were likely to occur as a result of the government “recklessly deregulating health and safety provisions, employment and equality legislation”.
Clive Romain, the NUT’s senior solicitor, said: “While we make every effort to resolve cases early and to the satisfaction of all parties there will regrettably be situations where this is not possible. The NUT's team of dedicated in-house lawyers provide a high quality service tailored specifically to the needs of teachers.
"We work for a safe learning and work environment for pupils and staff. Personal injury litigation is a right of our members when they suffer an injury at the fault of their employers. Litigation also highlights defects and leads to improvements for the benefit of the whole school community.”