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Planning is the best policy, says Zurich

despite what some teachers in the flood-ravaged areas of the North and Central England might think, flooding isn't the biggest risk facing schools, according to insurers. The biggest risk is not being able to recruit skilled staff.

Financial constraints, fluctuating pupil numbers and poor exam results are some of the other hazards schools should plan for, according to Zurich, the specialist local authority insurers.

But, unfortunately, if all your pupils fail or the last teacher you recruited turned out to be a disaster, do not bother to check your insurance policy. None of these eventualities will be covered.

Flooding will have moved right to the top of the list for many this week, but when Zurich compiled it, it ranked only 7th in its top 10.

Tom Shewry, head of education at Zurich, said it was not possible to insure against 80 per cent of the risks schools have to face.

"Cover is only available for physical problems, such as flooding, fire and theft," he said. "The other problems need to be managed to reduce their impact."

Mr Shewry said it was too early to predict how much would be paid to schools affected by the flooding.

But the cost of school fires in the UK rose by pound;7 million last year to an estimated pound;74 million, Zurich said. "In the USA, which has five times as many schools as the UK, fire costs pound;50 million, mainly due to the extensive use of sprinkler systems," it added. Other risks identified were injuries to pupils, failing to protect staff from stress, and criminal activity such as arson.

Local authorities, teachers and pupils see the risks facing schools in different ways. Town halls are most concerned about failing to find suitable places for pupils. Teachers are most concerned by school discipline and pupils are preoccupied by the quality of facilities.

Anti-social behaviour is highlighted as a concern because it contributes to high staff turnover, poor school discipline and damage to school facilities. The 14-19 agenda challenges colleges because staff are unfamiliar with teaching younger pupils and identifying special educational needs.

Floods come 7th on insurer's risk list

1. Inability to recruit andor retain appropriately skilled staff, especially in key curriculum areas.

2. Financial constraints and budget uncertainty limit ability to deliver services and plan effectively.

3. Fluctuating pupil numbers affect planning and income.

4. Poor inspections or exam results reduce pupil numbers and income.

5. Failure to ensure pupil welfare, including accidental injuries (both on and off site), bullying and assault.

6. Failure to protect staff from accidents, stress, bullying, false allegations and assault.

7. Loss of school premises through fire, flood, escape of water or other perils.

8. Criminal activity such as arson, theft, vandalism.

9. IT failure caused by power issues, obsolete softwarehardware, hardware failure, hacking or a virus.

10. Access to premises by inappropriate individuals.

Source: Zurich Financial Services

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