Brutal end to much-loved job

27th February 2004 at 00:00
A special needs teacher who won pound;250,000 after being attacked by a 13-year-old pupil says no amount of money can compensate for losing the job she loved.

Sharon Millward, 51, from Greater Manchester, retired on ill-health grounds after being attacked in Thornbury House secure unit, Kidlington, Oxfordshire.

Mrs Millward's full-time job was at Northfield school in Oxford for children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, but Oxfordshire county council also employed her to work one morning a week at the secure unit.

The council had offered pound;50,000 to settle her claim.

Last week Mr Justice Hughes sitting at the High Court, London, awarded her pound;250,000 in compensation after hearing she was not told of the pupil's history of violence and aggression, particularly towards women.

He said what happened was foreseeable and would have been comparatively easy to prevent.

Mrs Millward had been teaching three pupils in a locked classroom which opened off another classroom when the attack happened in April 2000. She asked the 13-year-old boy to "shut up" while she read the class a book. He reacted by throwing a chair and ceramic-tiled table tops at Mrs Millward as she cowered on the floor. The boy kicked her in the groin and arms, then hurled a table at her as he was escorted from the room by a staff member who had come to her assistance.

Mrs Millward left teaching suffering from post-traumatic stress.

She said: "I lost the job I loved and no award can give me back the life I had expected to lead.

"While I am satisfied with the outcome of my case, I am saddened that my career had to end in such a sudden and brutal way.

"I hope that councils and schools will learn from my experience and protect their staff by keeping them informed of all risks posed when teaching pupils from troubled backgrounds."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "Failure by councils to protect employees from pupils known to be violent is totally unacceptable."

An Oxfordshire county council statement said: "We were very concerned about the injuries sustained by Mrs Millward. We will look at Mr Justice Hughes's ruling and decide whether to appeal."

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