Assaults boost pound;6m compensation bill

11th May 2001 at 01:00
Clare Dean and Amanda Kelly report on the record level of financial awards for teachers who have suffered attacks or accidents at work

TEACHERS won a record pound;6million in compensation last year following accidents and attacks in the classroom and on their way to school.

Personal injury and criminal injury compensation payments are increasing because of a rising number of assaults on teachers, the poor state of some school buildings and the teaching profession's growing awareness of its legal rights. They range from just a few hundred pounds to more than pound;500,000.

One of the largest sums awarded was pound;475,000 for a teacher who fell and injured her back while abseiling on a school visit to an outdoor activity centre. She is no longer able to work.

Elsewhere, teachers have slipped on wet or badly polished floors, fallen over damaged lino or injured their backs pushing children in wheelchairs.

They have tripped on overhead projector flexes, or fallen from chairs while putting up display work. One teacher even had a bag of books thrown 12 ft out of a school window on to his head.

A pregnant teacher in Stoke-on-Trent was punched in her stomach and kicked while trying to break up a fight between two pupils in her classroom.

A supply teacher, meanwhile, suffered a stress-related illness after a parent threw a stone at her.

One teacher in 10 has been assaulted by a pupil in the past year alone, according to a recent TES survey.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, which handled 93 cases last year, won a record pound;2.3million in compensation - double the previous year's figure.

Mary Howard, the NASUWT's legal officer, said: "There have always been the sort of 'tripping and slipping' accidents, but we are seeing more claims from people complaining of being bullied and overworked."

The National Union of Teacherslast year resolved 140 cases. Three times that number remain on the files. It has won pound;6million compensation for its members over the past three years.

Graham Clayton, the union's solicitor, said: "The state of school buildings is still very bad. There are far too many accidents occurring in schools."

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers handled 227 personal injury cases last year and won pound;660,000 for its members, while the Secondary Heads' Association won around pound;2,000 each for its four cases.

Since January 1999, the National Association of Head Teachers has won more than pound;350,000 compensation for criminal injury and pound;366,000 in personal injury claims for its members.

Ian Poole, a senior solicitor with the union, said there has been a particularly large increase over the past three or four years in the number of teachers being assaulted by pupils.

He said: "We are seeing a growing number of teachers who have been assaulted so seriously that they are actually unable to work again."

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

* A CDT teacher who worked in a poorly-ventilated schoolworkshop developed asthma and was forced to resign. He settled for pound;10,569.

* A teacher who injured his back after falling from the school hall stage while invigilating an examination received pound;4,000.

* A teacher fell into a hole in a playing-field which had been left uncovered after the removal of goalposts. She received pound;5,250 to compensate her for injuries to her knee and ankle.

CRIMINAL INJURY PAY-OUTS

* A Southwark teacher received pound;42,000 after being forced to take ill-health retirement when an attack by a pupil seriously damaged her confidence and ability to concentrate.

* A teacher who had to stop working after injuring her neck when she attempted to sit down on a chair which had had its seat removed by a pupil was awarded a total of pound;27,288.


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