Our schools of expensive knocks

12th December 2008 at 00:00

Children are bound to fall over; it is in their nature (page 1). But when accidents happen at home, most parents, unless it ends in serious injury, do not think twice about it.

So why do they suddenly see it differently when it happens in school, if not to make a fast buck?

David Evans, secretary of the teaching union NUT Cymru, is probably right that most teachers would not dream of seeking compensation for an injury incurred at school, although there is no escaping the fact there are those who have made claims over the past three years, be it rightly or wrongly.

However, the overwhelming majority of claims in Plaid Cymru's findings have been made by parents on behalf of their children.

The full details of accidents across Wales have not been made public, but can a local authority really be blamed for a pupil slipping on a piece of carrot on a canteen floor, or a gate injuring a child after it was blown by the wind?

TES Cymru has discovered the true figure of compensation and legal costs paid out by local education authorities over the past three years is at the very least Pounds 750,000, but how far would this sizeable amount go to make repairs and updates to lessen the risk of injury to children at school?

And, while some parents may have real reason for seeking recompense for their child being seriously injured, it clearly has gone too far and is becoming a burden on heads.

The health and safety responsibility on school leaders in Wales has never been greater.

The demands of the play-led foundation phase, with outdoor play and active learning dominating, mean accidents are much more likely to happen. The challenge of safely transporting teenagers between schools and colleges under the 14-19 learning pathways for their chosen courses is also a risky business.

Keith Towler, children's commissioner for Wales, recently said teachers and schools needed to stop "mollycoddling" children. He says teachers need to let them go out to play more, lamenting that many do not understand just how much they love the big outdoors.

But can we blame them when some parents can only see pound signs?

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