Teachers hurt at work claim millions in compensation
Schools, it would seem, are dangerous places. Leaks, wires and even misplaced balls can cause serious injuries to staff. Indeed, it has emerged this week that hundreds of teachers have taken action in the past 12 months after being hurt while doing their job or as a result of attacks by pupils or parents.
Details released of the compensation cases dealt with by the NUT and the ATL education union show that members have received payments amounting to millions of pounds - either because of personal injury, compromise agreements paid out when they leave their posts or because they were victims of crime.
One NUT member from the Midlands, for example, injured her hip when she tripped over a bag of balls that had been left at the foot of a staircase after morning break. She received #163;21,289. Another member from the same region won a payment of more than #163;22,000 after falling while using an aluminium ramp because it had a fault and the paving underneath was defective.
Other cases include a teacher from the North West who slipped in a pool of water in her office caused by a leaking roof. Due to an injured hip, she had to have an operation and received #163;13,000.
These cases are a selection of those fought by the union during the past year. During 2011, the NUT's legal and professional services sub-committee approved 200 cases for legal assistance: 53 were for personal injury, 76 were criminal cases and 64 were about employment.
The NUT does not release figures for the overall amount won for members, but the union's executive report highlights details of some cases. Personal injury compensation examples add up to #163;658,028 and criminal compensation cases add up to #163;397,788.
Meanwhile, solicitors and regional officials at the ATL said that they had secured #163;4.5 million for members who signed compromise agreements and #163;800,000 for injured members and their families.
Amanda Brown, the NUT's head of employment conditions and rights, said that the amount awarded to teachers was based on how seriously they were affected.
"To us, this casework isn't just about how much money is involved. We are trying to make sure negligence is eradicated as far as it can be. It's very important that schools are safe places for people to be," she said.
The biggest payment of the year was to a retired NUT member, who was awarded #163;220,000 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma. He was a former metalwork teacher who had been exposed to asbestos throughout his career.
Another teacher from the Midlands was assaulted by the parent of one of his pupils, who punched him in the head. He suffered physical and psychological injuries and was awarded #163;172,676.
Julian Stanley, chief executive of charity the Teacher Support Network, pointed out that there was more to these stories than meets the eye.
"While teachers should be compensated if injured at work, the cost and impact of these accidents are sometimes even greater than the monetary values mentioned imply," he said. "Loss of confidence, emotional distress and physical pain, which can have an influence on family and friends, as well as the impact on colleagues who must take up the workload of their absent co-workers, and the effect on pupils being taught, must also be considered. Inevitably, educational standards will drop."
Crushed finger due to defective door: #163;3,200.
Tripping on a carpet that was in a bad state of repair: #163;6,000.
Falling from a desk while putting up a classroom display: #163;45,000.
Back injury caused by defective toilet: #163;3,800.
Head injury caused by large interactive whiteboard falling on a teacher: #163;11,000.
Tripping over a trailing cable: #163;14,000.