Parents 'milk the system'

As compensation claims reach Pounds 750,000, heads condemn parents for rash of no win, no fee claims

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Teachers are more likely to suffer in silence if they become injured at school rather than milk the system for compensation payments, say teaching unions.

However, heads say they are increasingly stressed by parents and pupils attempting to claim compensation for trips and bangs at school - one of which was for a child slipping on a piece of carrot.

It emerged last week that Pounds 600,000 has been paid out to parents, pupils and teachers in compensation and legal costs by 19 local authorities over the past three years.

Plaid Cymru, who made freedom of information requests, compared the compensation culture of Wales's schools to that of the US, and said local authorities should have better health and safety procedures in place. TES Cymru can reveal today the true cost of payouts is nearer Pounds 750,000 after successfully gaining figures from the three remaining LEAs who did not respond to Plaid.

In 2005-08 Flintshire paid out Pounds 88,245 for 12 accidents to pupils or staff on school premises. One child who tripped over an uneven repair to a carpet in the sports hall received Pounds 12,970. Swansea paid out Pounds 45,811 in various claims.

Monmouthshire, the only other authority not included in Plaid's findings, received two claims from staff, both of who slipped on school premises.

"The incidents are currently under investigation and so the value of compensation is nil," a council spokeswoman said.

But despite a catalogue of claims by teaching staff, including several for injuries for breaking up pupil fights and falls, David Evans, secretary of the teaching union NUT Cymru, insists its members would rather not make a claim to put more pressure on budgets.

Rhondda Cynon Taff has paid out the most over three years - Pounds 294,000 covering incidents from staff slipping on a wet floor to a pupil falling into an uncovered drain. It said the borough's high number of no win, no fee firms could be a factor. It also suggested other LEAs may not have told the whole story.

Iwan Guy, acting director of the heads' union NAHT Cymru, said some members had complained of "an increase in the compensation culture" - particularly by parents - causing a drain on their time.

Leader, page 40.

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