If you don't have the right car insurance, think twice beforegiving pupils a lift, advises Anat Arkin.
When Janet Scott tried to find out what kind of insurance she needed for those occasions when she gave pupils a lift in her car, she soon became confused.
Two of the insurance companies she contacted, Endsleigh and First Direct, told her she would need business insurance if she ever dropped a pupil home after a concert or rehearsal, because she would be doing something directly related to her job as a music teacher. But Guardian Direct said that a standard domestic policy would be sufficient, since dropping off a pupil now and again was the same as dropping off a friend.
Not entirely convinced that a policy covering "social, domestic and pleasure" use of her car would provide adequate cover if she ever had an accident with a pupil in the car, Mrs Scott set about looking for a policy that would cover business use as well - but without breaking the bank. After spending hours on the phone, she eventually got a good deal through Connaught Summers, which offered her a fully comprehensive policy with business insurance for Pounds 285 - about Pounds 150 less than the price quoted by some of the other companies she contacted.
Not all insurers charge teachers extra for business cover. Although the quote from Endsleigh was not the most competitive for Janet Scott, the company has a motor insurance scheme that provides teachers with business cover at no extra cost.
"Our advice would be that teachers should always take full business cover if they are going to give children lifts, even if it's only the occasional trip to the swimming baths," says Andy McKell, marketing supervisor for Endsleigh.
"If they are asked to pay extra for it, they should shop around and see if other people offer it free - or weigh up the implications of not having that cover and getting a claim refused by the insurer."
In the event of an accident involving a child, those implications could be grim. Janet Scott says: "Should the parents decide to sue for personal injury to the child, the whole of your assets - such as your house - may be put in jeopardy."
When she raised these issues with colleagues at Woldgate School in York, Mrs Scott was surprised at the number of occasions that teachers might have driven without being properly insured. Geography teachers who often give pupils lifts on field trips seemed especially concerned, she says.
Teachers also need to check that they are properly insured if they use their cars to travel to external training courses and meetings, or from one school or college site to another. Trips of this kind require business insurance, since a standard "social, domestic and pleasure" policy only covers travel to and from a single place of work.
According to Frizzell - which, like Endsleigh and several other companies, automatically offers teachers cover for professional use of their cars - staff who start off working on one site, but later need to travel between sites, should tell their insurers that their timetable has changed. If they fail to reveal this or any other material change in their circumstances, they could be putting their cover at risk.
Frizzell's "free" business insurance covers teachers for normal professional use of their cars, including travelling from site to site and transporting pupils. But if their work-related journeys account for more than 15,000 miles a year or if they start working for "hire and reward", they need to take out a separate grade.
"If a teacher were giving lifts and took money as a direct contribution towards petrol, that would not constitute hire or reward," says a Frizzell spokes-person. "But if they started making a profit and failed to reveal that to their insurer, they could be putting their cover at risk."
Connaught Summers: 01923 400422 Endsleigh: 0990 405070First Direct: 0345 100100 Frizzell: 01202 752007 Guardian Direct: 0800 282820.