Injured staff win record awards

23rd December 1994 at 00:00
Pounds 250,000 pay-outs to assaulted teachers would have been cut to a tenth under Home Secretary's tariff system. Two teachers who were permanently disabled after being attacked by pupils have been awarded record compensation totalling almost Pounds 250,000.

The pay-outs have focused attention on classroom violence and the Home Secretary's controversial new "tariff" scheme to compensate victims of crime.

The awards illustrate the extent to which victims of violence stand to lose out under the scheme and could add to the pressure on Michael Howard following the damning report on prison security earlier this week.

In both cases, believed to be the highest awards for teachers attacked by pupils, the tariff system - provisionally in place but ruled illegal by the Appeal Court last month - would have cut the amounts to less than a tenth by excluding loss of earnings.

Two weeks ago, Douglas Taylor, a teacher at a special school in Oldham, Greater Manchester, was awarded Pounds 88,500 for a broken spine suffered when a boy kicked a door into his back four years ago. Mr Taylor, a 55-year-old champion conductor and musician with northern brass bands, had been trying to stop the boy beating up a younger pupil. The new system, which applies to cases brought to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board since April, would have only yielded him Pounds 7,500, a figure he describes as "a joke". The injury means he is unable to work or walk for more than a few minutes.

Philip Lott, senior solicitor for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which brought the case, said: "Mr Taylor suffered a horrendous assault. This demonstrates the unfairness of the new system." He said the school, Marland Fold, had been "reluctant" to report the case to the police, despite a request by the local ATL branch.

Peter Smith, general secretary of the ATL, said that Mr Taylor's case proved that the tariff scheme was "completely wrong". He said: "It's not enough to chant about law and order and to ask who's thinking about victims of crime without being willing to acknowledge the reality of the victim's situation ."

Mr Taylor believes teachers should be able to restrain pupils and administer corporal punishment. He described the violence at Marland Fold as "horrendous", adding: "The law should be allowed to take its course. A teacher isn't allowed to defend himself any more."

In the second case, a maths teacher at a centre for young offenders lost the use of his arm and shoulder four years ago while attempting to restrain an hysterical 16-year-old boy. He was awarded Pounds 160,000 two weeks ago in a case brought to the CICB by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers. The teacher, who did not want to be named, said that the local authority was reluctant to train staff in restraint techniques "in case a pupil was injured. The minute you restrain a child you risk being accused yourself".

Policy on training, he said, was dictated by "whatever was politically sound at the time". Jerry Bartlett, legal officer for the NASUWT, said that under Michael Howard's tariff scheme this teacher would have received only Pounds 12,500.

The NASUWT is to survey its members next year on frequency of attacks, fearing that headteachers and local authorities are trying to hide the extent of the problem to prevent bad publicity.

Helen Peggs, spokeswoman for Victim Support, said the abolition of compensation for loss of earnings would have a devastating effect, particularly on well-paid people at risk at work, such as police and teachers.

Better insurance or pension provision would be vital if the House of Lords does not uphold the Appeal Court decision and the tariff scheme is permitted to continue, she added.

Peter Spurgeon, director of the CICB, said: "Our stock-in-trade is in injuries from pub brawls on a Saturday night. The professions are generally in a better position after injury than, say, a building worker. The Government's view is that high earners should be able to insure themselves."

Another large award is expected early next year for Roderic Findlay, a history teacher shot in the arm by a pupil during a lesson at Colston's Collegiate, a Bristol public school in 1991.

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