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Unions win injured staff huge payouts

Successful personal injury claims are on the increase, but stress-related cases are much harder to pursue. Michael Shaw and Jon Slater report

A TEACHER who injured himself while moving a maypole at a primary school fete was one of more than 300 teaching staff to win damages last year after suffering work-related attacks or accidents.

Teaching unions won record-breaking compensation payments of more than pound;10 million for their members in successful employment tribunals and personal injury cases in 2002.

One of the largest sums awarded was pound;230,000 for a teacher who suffered a serious injury when she slipped down wet stairs at school and was forced to take early retirement.

Teachers hurt themselves by moving heavy classroom equipment, being hit by falling blackboards or being involved in road accidents on their way to school.

While personal injury cases rose, the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers reported that the number of its members making stress-related claims had almost halved to 42.

Jim Quigley, a legal officer for the NASUWT said that lawyers were finding it much harder to pursue such cases since two appeal court rulings in February last year over-turned two teachers' stress compensation awards totalling nearly pound;200,000.

"Many teachers are still going off sick with stress, never to go back to work," said Mr Quigley. "But now they have no obvious route to pursue compensation."

The NASUWT won more than pound;6 million compensation for its members, including nearly pound;1.3m for 69 teachers involved in personal injury cases.

The National Union of Teachers estimates it has won compensation of more than pound;2m.

A rise in the number of cases in which teachers suffered from over-using their voices in lessons was reported by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, which gained pound;85,000 for a member who retired early after developing vocal difficulties.

The association handled 189 personal or criminal injury cases and estimates that it won pound;1,242,000 compensation overall. The National Association of Head Teachers said it won more than pound;1m and the Secondary Heads Association less than pound;100,000.

OCCUPATIONAL HAZARDS

* A Midlands teacher won pound;800 general damages after a window blind fell down and bruised her knuckles.

* pound;5,000 was paid to the only male teacher in a primary school who injured himself after a chair of governors asked him to move a maypole for the school fete.

* A teacher sustained a back injury when a blackboard became unhinged and pinned her to her desk. She won damages of pound;125,000.

CRIMINAL INJURY

* A teacher from the Midlands was awarded pound;50,000 after inhaling bromide stolen from the school's science department by a pupil. She suffered respiratory problems following the accident.

* A teacher received pound;78,937 after a pupil grabbed her head from behind and twisted it violently, leaving her with a neck injury.

* A teacher from the east of England was stabbed in the back by one of his pupils in front of the whole class. He was given pound;1,250 compensation for scarring.

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