Injuries to school and college staff and pupils have risen inexorably during the past three years, according to new figures from the Health and Safety Commission.
The overall number of injuries reported rose from 10,702 in 1992-93 to 11,512 in 1994-95, with a rise of more than 600 in the number of pupils and students who needed an overnight stay in hospital. By contrast, the largest overall rise among staff members was of injuries resulting in at least three days off work.
The figures are likely to represent a considerable under-reporting of the problem for pupils, since the Health and Safety Commission exists to monitor working conditions. Accordingly, it records injuries resulting in sick leave as well as those which hospitalise employees, but only major injuries - involving a hospital stay - to pupils and students.
Deaths among pupils have remained constant at around eight each year, whilst one member of staff or trainee died in 1992-93 and 1994-95 and five in 1993-94.
The HSC suspects that the real number of accidents is probably closer to three times the recorded figure. In January 1995 it became so alarmed by the number of accidents in school that it launched a guidance booklet. Advice included making sure schools' written health and safety policy was up to date, appointing named people to take action, assessing the main risks to staff and students, carry out inspections and take action once a term, and produce a short annual report.
A spokeswoman said it was too early yet to expect to see any improvement in school accident figures. She hoped that when the next annual report is published in April 1997 that there will be a fall in the totals and if not, the Commission might consider giving additional guidance to schools and colleges.
* Almost Pounds 30 million is to be spent on improving school buildings, particularly their security, schools minister Cheryl Gillan has announced.
Local education authorities have been given permission for 51 projects as part of the Schools Renewal Challenge Fund. Combined with other money, the total investment is likely to reach Pounds 51m. However, the figure is well short of the Pounds 211m sought for the 400 bids submitted.
Mrs Gillan said: "I have paid particular attention to the need to improve the security of schools most at risk.
"We have devoted Pounds 3.2m to 16 projects designed to improve security. Pounds 2.9m of this - over a quarter of the resources available for 1996-97 through the Challenge Fund - will be spent by next April."
"This is in addition to the new programme of substantial funding for school security starting next Spring."