Schools more dangerous as deaths mount

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The Independent Online
Schools and colleges are becoming more dangerous places, according to new statistics published by the Health and Safety Executive.

Seven pupils and five members of staff suffered fatal injuries and 11,067 accidents were reported last year. More than one in twenty of all the reported cases happen in schools.

The figures show a total increase of 10 per cent in the number of accidents reported over two years. There was also a rise in deaths: in 1992-93, three students and one staff member died.

The HSE is the operative arm of the Health and Safety Commission, which yesterday launched new guidelines for Britain's schools and colleges.

Frank Davies, commission chairman, said: "There is no doubt that there are significant health and safety problems in schools.''

But he added that out of the total number of people using schools and colleges, the incidence of major accidents was extremely small. He said schools should carry out inspections once a term, produce a short report on health and safety performance every year, and appoint a member of staff to take responsibility for safety.

He added that the increase in accident figures was due to a greater willingness to report incidents, although it is believed only a third of all staff accidents are officially reported.

But Elaine Darbyshire, national safety adviser of the National Union of Teachers, said: "We would say there has been an increase in the number of accidents. Teachers are reporting accidents because there are more problems than ever before.''

Ms Darbyshire, also a member of the HSC's Education Service Advisory Committee, an employer-employee body, said budget cutbacks and the practice of putting services out to tender had exacerbated the situation.

"Slips, trips and falls, in some cases, have been due to inadequate cleaning,'' she said.

Deaths last year included a boy of three who drowned in the swimming pool of a private school in Northamptonshire, a boy of 14 who suffered an epileptic fit while swimming in a lake at a Basingstoke school, and a 17-year-old who drowned in a north Londoncollege swimming pool. Other tragedies involving pupils were a sixth-former, aged 17, who suffered a broken back in a rugby match at an Enfield boy's grammar, a male student who fell 30ft from a window at a further education college in Basingstoke, a 15-year-old who fell backwards down a staircase in Ripley, North Yorkshire, and a 17-year-old Eton boy who died in a parascending accident.

Staff deaths included a teacher in Bradford, West Yorkshire, who tripped over a satchel and developed a fatal thrombosis, and a housemaster at a Scottish private school who fell from a stepladder.