Teachers net record £15.6m a year in damages for classroom assaults and accidents


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The Independent Online

Teachers have won record damages in the past year after a spate of assaults and accidents in the classroom.

Figures disclosed by the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers today show they netted £15,610,924 in compensation – a 25 per cent increase on the previous year’s figure.

If the compensation deals secured by the three biggests teachers' organisations are added together, the figure is likely to exceed £30 million.

The biggest payout was £268,787 for a teacher from the North-East who intervened to help a colleague who was being assaulted by a pupil.

The 45-year-old tried to restrain the pupil and was kicked repeatedly for his efforts – and then assaulted from behind by another pupil.  He suffered sever physical injuries and later developed palpitations and panic attacks.

The award covered compensation for a “disabling mental illness” stemming from the attack.

During 2012, the union secured 93 payouts for teachers who were the victims of assault.  A further 263 cases were still pending at the end of the year.

In another case, a 45-year-old woman teacher from the West Midlands was assaulted by a pupil in her classroom but was able to return to work after suffering minor injuries.

The incident was reported to the police but the pupil’s family subsequently made serious allegations against her which triggered off a child protection investigation.

After a lengthy investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service recommended no action but the whole episode left the teacher suffering stress and a psychiatric reaction which eventually forced her to retire on ill-health grounds.  She was awarded £181,305 compensation.

In a third case, a technology teacher was working in an inadequately ventilated workshop for 10 years and developed rhinitis, sinusitis and occupational asthma.  The 39-year-old from the East of England won £240,000 damages.

Another teacher in the North West was punched in the stomach by a seven-year-old boy.  The 50-year-old woman teacher sought medical help – and her condition deteriorated two months later to the extent she had to be admitted to hospital.  She was paid £118,865 in compensation and also forced to retire on ill health grounds.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said: “It is clear from these cases that if employers followed good employment and health and safety practice then teachers wouldn’t have had to face these dramatic events and there wouldn’t have been costs of millions of pounds to taxpayers.”

She added that employers had “deliberately flouted the law”, adding:  “It is teachers and taxpayers who have to pay the price.

“Every one of these cases is a person that has been damaged physically or emotionally … The distress and pressure of the incident to the individual teacher and their family is often compounded by legal action and court proceedings before any award is made.

“Whilst the 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.”

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said it had netted £5.5 million in payouts to its members this year.  The National Union of Teachers said it did not keep records of the total amount paid out to teachers.  However, in one case, a member secured £382,000 in damages after he sought to confiscate a football and had his arm slammed into a cabinet.

In another case, a teacher who slipped on some water won £6,000 damages but his employers claimed he spilt it himself.