The staff harmed by pupils, places or prejudice

3rd April 2015 at 01:00
Teachers hurt or discriminated against at work claim pound;27m

Teachers received more than pound;27 million in compensation last year after being physically or psychologically harmed or discriminated against at work.

Payouts included pound;86,000 to a 32-year-old teacher who suffered head injuries when a student kicked an upturned table at her. She was one of a long list of staff to receive compensation after being injured at school, according to figures published today.

Other claimants included a 60-year-old who received a serious head injury after being assaulted by a pupil at a special school, and a teacher who broke her hand when a student tackled her to the floor.

Another teacher, aged 55, was awarded pound;124,849 after being "violently shaken" by a pupil in an attack that caused head and spinal injuries.

The biggest single reported payment was pound;210,000, which was paid to a retired 70-year-old teacher who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after teaching in classrooms that contained asbestos.

Details of compensation claims, published by the ATL, NUT and NASUWT teaching unions and compiled by TES, show that at least pound;27 million was paid to teachers in 2014.

This includes pound;19.8 million paid to members of the NASUWT, down slightly from pound;20.7 million the previous year. It also includes pound;6.7 million paid to ATL members and at least pound;800,000 paid to NUT members. The NUT does not publish the total value of its members' compensation, so the true figure is likely to be considerably higher.

The money was paid to hundreds of teachers as a result of claims for injuries and attacks, as well as in compromise agreements and awards from employment tribunals.

Not all injuries were caused by students. One teacher was making a cup of tea when a wall-mounted water heater fell on her chest, causing "bruising and symptoms of anxiety", the NUT said. She received pound;2,700 in compensation.

Another teacher, in the East Midlands, who experienced memory loss and was unable to return to school after tripping on a defective carpet, received almost pound;75,000. A third fell over a coat that was on the floor, which caused "soft tissue injuries" to her leg and knee, and received pound;5,000 in damages.

A fourth teacher slipped on a wet floor, which brought on arthritis in the hip, forcing her to give up teaching and retire early. She was awarded pound;70,000 by the local authority.

`Blighted' lives

The unions also reveal details of payouts for discrimination against teachers. An NUT member went to an employment tribunal after her headteacher made comments about her miscarriage, subsequent pregnancy and "emotional breakdown" and the school refused a request for flexible working. The teacher received pound;15,300 in a settlement before the hearing.

Another NUT member in the North West of England reached the final interview stage for a teaching job, during which she said she was pregnant. She did not get the job and, when the post was readvertised a week later, she was not offered an initial interview. Her discrimination claim was settled for pound;3,500.

The NASUWT also acted for a 36-year-old music teacher from the North West of England, who was dismissed for gross misconduct after pupils alleged that she had been watching porn on her computer during class.

The union said the school's investigatory process was flawed and there was no evidence of inappropriate material being viewed on her computer. An employment tribunal found that the teacher's dismissal had been unfair.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: "The tragedy is that, in most cases, compensation would be unnecessary if employers followed good employment practices and appropriate health and safety procedures.

"Instead, teachers have their careers, lives and health blighted and millions of pounds of public money has to be spent 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."

Top 5 payouts

The biggest reported compensation payments made in 2014:

pound;210,000

Paid to a retired teacher, aged 70, who was diagnosed with mesothelioma after teaching in classrooms containing asbestos

pound;178,000

Paid to a teacher in London who needed knee-replacement surgery after being punched in the legs by an autistic pupil

pound;150,613

Paid to a teacher in the South West who was assaulted by a student at a pupil referral unit. He was signed off with a psychological injury and has not returned to work

pound;136,710

Paid to a teacher assaulted by a 14-year-old at a private school for students with emotional and behavioural difficulties. She suffered a prolapsed disc in her neck and subsequent depression

pound;124,849

Paid to a teacher who was violently shaken by a pupil she was trying to prevent leaving the school site

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