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Pounds 250,000 pay-out for career-ending assault

A teacher is to be awarded around Pounds 250,000 in compensation after a violent attack by a 13-year-old pupil ended her career. It is one of the highest ever pay-outs for assault, according to the NASUWT union.

Sharon Lewis was jumped on, put in a headlock and pushed to the floor in an incident at Woodlands Special School in Nottingham. It has left her with long-term physical and psychological scars.

Her attacker, who had a history of violent behaviour, received only a one-day exclusion for his actions.

Miss Lewis, who described her attack as a "shocking, frightening experience", is now calling for a zero-tolerance approach on violence against teachers.

"I'm not angry at the pupil who did it," she said. "I'm angry at a system where encountering violence is now an expectation of the job. That is very wrong and it frustrates me.

"It's become the norm that violence against teachers is acceptable. If we don't instil the consequences of violent behaviour, we are not doing young people any favours."

Miss Lewis, who is now training to be a counsellor, suffered nerve damage in her left shoulder during the April 2004 attack. It still causes numbness and tingling in her neck, arm and leg. She was just 26.

She spent three days in hospital and still suffers from physical pain and post-traumatic stress, leaving her prone to panic and anxiety attacks. She is adamant she will not go back into teaching.

Miss Lewis was attacked by a pupil with recognised emotional and behavioural difficulties. He had previously received a one-day exclusion after punching another member of staff.

Miss Lewis will receive between Pounds 230,000 and Pounds 280,000 in compensation, but the final amount has yet to be settled. She said she was pleased that the impact of the attack on her life had been recognised.

Chris Keates, general secretary of NASUWT, criticised the protracted compensation process. "The system is very heavily weighted against victims, and in this case the authority twice refused to accept that this was even an assault," she said. "The greatest tragedy is that people's chosen careers are ended and good teachers are lost to the profession."

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