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String of damages claims predicted

Successful compensation claims by former pupils against the Norwegian education system may trigger a series of similar claims by Danish parents and pupils, a leading educationist has warned.

Mogens Jansen, chairman of Landsforeningen af Laesepaedagoger (the Association of Reading Teachers in Denmark) and a head of department at Danmarks Paedagogiske Institut (Denmark Educational Institute), told the reading teachers' annual assembly that the new education act - which defines education and the core "knowledge and proficiencies" that should be taught - will make it "easier for parents to demand compensation or repayments of school fees".

"Parents will feel they have an obligation to go elsewhere to ensure that their children receive the necessary schooling if the education offered by schools does not meet the set targets," he added. "These parents will then demand damages, compensation or repayment of the expenses involved in extra education."

In Norway, two former dyslexic pupils, now 27 and 38, were recently awarded up to NKr 167,500 (Pounds 15,650) in damages and expenses when courts ruled that their former school authorities were guilty of neglect.

Mogens Jansen predicts a string of cases in which schools and councils will have to prove that pupils received sufficiently good education in accordance with the aims and legislation for schools.

"Schools built of unhealthy materials that give children allergies, reducing their quality of life, are not tolerable," he said.

"Nor can we tolerate schools that do not give the pupils the opportunity to get the most out of their future."

Danmarks Laererforening (the Teachers' Union), Kommunernes Landsforening (the Association of Local Councils) and the Ministry of Education all say they have no knowledge of court cases in Denmark involving education quality.

Jorn Ostergaard, the chairman of the teachers' union, hopes that parents and school leaders will not be diverted into legal battles. "That will mean that the minimum requirements will be met but not exceeded," he said. "Teaching will not improve."

Birk Jensen, the councils' association's head of culture and schools, was "surprised" to hear about the compensation claims in Norway, and doubted that the Danes would follow suit.

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