'Damaged' teachers paid pound;22m in compensation

29th March 2013 at 00:00
Injured or attacked staff make claims of up to pound;380,000

A teacher who was awarded pound;380,000 after his arm was slammed into a filing cabinet by a pupil whose football he had confiscated was among school staff who received more than pound;22 million in payouts last year.

The money was paid out to hundreds of teachers as the result of compensation claims for injuries and attacks, as well as in compromise agreements and employment tribunals.

The NASUWT teaching union helped its members to win pound;15.6 million in 2012, up almost a quarter on the previous year. The overall total is expected to be significantly higher as the NUT has only released details of a small selection of cases.

The teacher who was assaulted after refusing to return the football developed carpal tunnel syndrome and complex regional pain syndrome as a result. "He was unable to continue working and was dismissed on the grounds of ill health," his union, the NUT, said. The six-figure sum was the biggest single payout received by a teacher last year.

A teacher in the Midlands had to leave her job as the result of an incident in which a pupil kicked a ball at her head. "The assault caused injury to her neck that left her suffering ongoing spasms and prevented her from returning to work," the NUT said. She was later awarded pound;71,000.

Another NUT member received pound;25,000 in a race discrimination case after discovering a poster in the staffroom with "his name beside a cartoon image of a gorilla". He went on sick leave after the incident and was later dismissed on capability grounds.

An NASUWT member received pound;118,000 after a seven-year-old pupil punched her in the stomach, aggravating a pre-existing medical condition. The incident occurred in 2005 but the case was only resolved last year. By this time, the teacher had been forced to retire on the grounds of ill health.

Another member of the union developed rhinitis, sinusitis and asthma after working in an inadequately ventilated workshop for a decade, eventually receiving pound;240,000 in compensation.

"It is clear from these cases," NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said, "that if employers operated good employment and health and safety practice, then teachers would not have had to face these traumatic events and there would not be costs of millions of pounds to taxpayers.

"These employers deliberately flout the law but it is the teachers and the taxpayers who pay the price. Behind every one of these cases is a person who has been damaged physically or mentally, either because of injury or unfair dismissal."

An Association of Teachers and Lecturers spokeswoman said the union had recovered pound;4.3 million in compromise agreements and pound;1.2 million in compensation payments for injured members and their families. The sum of the payments made to NUT members in the sample cases made public by the union totalled pound;1.5 million.

A PE teacher in a London school sustained a fractured wrist while putting away books in a storage cupboard. She complained that the cluttered floor of the cupboard was dangerous and later received a pound;3,675 settlement. Another NUT member working at a school in Yorkshire suffered a fracture dislocation of the left elbow after slipping on an "unusually shiny" floor, which had been "polished to a high gloss". She received pound;9,000 in compensation.

"While compensation is important, it can never make up for the fact that many of these teachers suffer permanent physical and mental injury and often cannot continue in their chosen career," Ms Keates said.

At what price?

  • pound;279K - Paid to teacher whose legs and arms were pinned together by an autistic pupil.
  • pound;266K - Paid to teacher left with `disabling mental illness' after attack by two pupils.
  • pound;66K - Paid to teacher who slipped on moss in school car park.
  • pound;6K - Paid to teacher who sustained back and neck injuries after slipping on wet floor.
  • pound;5K - Paid to Irish teacher racially abused by pupils.
  • pound;5K - Paid to NUT rep discriminated against because of union activities.
    • Photo credit: Alamy

      Original headline: `Damaged' teachers are paid pound;22 million in compensation

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