Try not to leave a class unsupervised

27th June 2008 at 01:00
A teacher has asked whether she could face legal or disciplinary action if a pupil were injured while she was out of the classroom taking a sick child to the school office
A teacher has asked whether she could face legal or disciplinary action if a pupil were injured while she was out of the classroom taking a sick child to the school office.

Your basic duty as a teacher is to take care of the pupils in your charge. You must always bear in mind the age, ability and aptitude and any special educational needs of your pupils when deciding on any particular course of action. You should try not to leave a class unsupervised but if for some reason you have to, you should first consider the general nature of the class, the estimated time you will be away from them and the proximity of other teachers, before making a decision.

In one case, a secondary pupil suffered an eye injury from a rubber thrown by another pupil after the teacher had left the room for a few minutes. Both the Lower Court and Appeal Court rejected the pupil's claim for damages. They confirmed that a teacher has to display forethought, having regard to pupils' ages and propensity for high spirits, but fault could only be established if the accident was more likely to happen while a teacher has been absent for a short while. The judges considered that such an incident as this was not unusual in classroom life. It could have occurred with the teacher present but their back turned.

Courts have long recognised it is sometimes necessary for teachers to leave classes unattended but, as in all cases of negligence, the outcome depends on the actual facts of the case. It is better for schools to be certain and to have procedures in place that enable teachers to report that a class is about to be left and to ensure that other supervision will come into play as soon as reasonably practicable.

Chris Lowe, Former headteacher, trade union adviser and chief editor of QGP.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

Comments

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now