Too much lost for cash to compensate

23rd December 1994 at 00:00
Two teachers have been granted record compensation for violence by pupils, but how many are keeping quiet? The TES reports.

A hundred and sixty thousand pounds may be a record payout to a teacher injured by a pupil, but, says Mark Stevens, the money doesn't compensate for a profound sense that he has been betrayed by his employers, or for being unable to play cricket with his grandson.

Mark was teaching maths in a special school for young offenders and pupils with severe behaviour problems when a 16-year-old boy "went berserk" in class. Mark restrained him by holding him, as recommended by local authority guidelines. The boy "turned nasty" and Mark's bicep muscle was, in non-medical terms, ripped from its moorings, severely disabling his right shoulder and arm.

There was initially some uncertainty about the extent and severity of the injury. A specialist told Mark he couldn't work and would have to wait three or four years for an operation. The LEA made it clear that his job would not be held open. His request to return to a desk job was refused. He was 42.

Now, four years later, Mark is unemployed and sees little hope of getting any sort of teaching job. "I've applied for supply teaching. When I put my form in, they say, 'the insurance people have asked to look at your form', and I don't get that phone call back."

The extraordinary aspect of Mark's story is not his long fight for compensation or the amount he eventually received, but the fact that neither he nor his colleagues were given any practical training in restraint techniques, even though they risked assault daily. "The authority was terrified of teaching these techniques in case a pupil was injured. The minute you restrain a child, you risk being accused yourself." The policy on training was always changing, he says, dictated by "whatever was politically sound at the time, not what was actually needed."

Image was important, he implies, even in a school whose pupils included arsonists, burglars and even murderers, as well as disturbed victims of abuse .

"It was suggested to staff that if too many people thought we were out of control, the LEA and the Home Office would get involved and cause problems for us." Pressure not to make a fuss also came from colleagues. "There's a macho attitude that it's all part of the job. But it isn't - teachers were there to be educators, not wrestlers or criminal psychologists."

Mark Stevens is still angry - not so much about his injury or the protracted fight for compensation, but about what he sees as an unseemly haste on the part of the LEA to dispose of him as quickly and cheaply as possible. "I had assumed there was a backlog of goodwill after 16 years of service, but no. I was offered no advice or support. God help anyone who isn't in a union (Mark is a member of the NASUWT)."

Under Michael Howard's proposed tariff compensation scheme, Mark Stevens would get about Pounds 12,500.

Mark Stevens is a pseudonym. His name was changed and the name of the secure unit withheld at his request.

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