Teacher's payout for assault by boy of four

Britain's teachers have netted a record £3.5m in compensation during the past year as a result of accidents at school and assaults by pupils.

A report prepared by lawyers for the National Union of Teachers (NUT) revealed that they fought a total of 91 cases for compensation - netting £1.2m-plus in awards for their members.

Adding on awards obtained by the other two teachers' unions will take the total payout to above £3.5m, with more than 250 teachers awarded compensation deals.

Cases highlighted by the NUT include a head of music who suffered hearing loss as a result of being constantly subjected to the blare of his pupils' attempts to master their instruments.

In another case, a woman teacher won damages after suffering a perforated eardrum when hit by a balloon filled with water, although she refused to make a police complaint because she thought it would damage the pupil's chances at GCSE.

Amanda Brown, assistant legal secretary at the NUT, said: "There has been an increase in case work. The two big issues are increased stress and psychological issues and increases in false allegations made against teachers."

In the case of the head of music, who worked at a Lincolnshire comprehensive, he claimed that exposure to excessive noise over a number of years had led to hearing loss and tinnitus, and he had been forced to take early retirement. The case was contested but two sound engineers brought in by the union agreed that the decibels level he had been exposed to was excessive. He won £40,000 in compensation.

The report shows that the youngest pupil to have assaulted a teacher was four. The boy constantly kicked and punched his reception class teacher in the back. She won £1,650 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA).

The most serious assault was on a woman secondary teacher at a Welsh school, who was mugged by four youths in a car park. She won £125,000 in compensation after suffering psychiatric illness which forced her to retire.

The female teacher who refused to complain to the police suffered a perforated eardrum and mental anxiety after a 16-year-old pupil threw a balloon of water at her, which hit her on the head. Initially, her complaint was rejected by the CICA but, when the circumstances for her refusal to prosecute were made clear - the student was taking a GCSE exam the next day - it reversed the judgment and awarded her £25,000.

Another teacher at a special school won £50,000 after suffering a series of 21 assaults by the same pupil. The final straw was when she was assaulted by him with a table tennis bat - leading to neck injuries and time off work with depression.

A number of cases dealt with by the union involved teachers who collapsed on the floor in their classrooms because their chairs finally gave way after years of use, and those who had slipped on wet surfaces, injuring limbs and, in one case, dislocating a shoulder.

Ms Brown said: "In case of accident and stress, the reason we win compensation is because it has been found that employers should have realised a danger and should have done something about it.

"Hopefully, if we publicise what we have achieved they will take their responsibilities seriously. What we want to do is to avoid litigation and make it clear to employers they should act before people's lives are affected."

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers is calling for pupils who make malicious allegations of physical or sexual assault against teachers to be sued for damages if their claims prove false.

Of the 1,782 complaints made against its members during the past decade, only 69 have been proven.

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