Teacher awarded 55,000 pounds after attack

A primary school teacher who was attacked by the mother of one of her pupils in front of a class of six-year-olds has been awarded pounds 55,000 compensation.

Sheila McQuiston, 37, from Coleraine, Northern Ireland, has been unable to return to work since the attack three years ago. The award, from the Northern Ireland Office, is one of the highest to a teacher.

Mrs McQuiston is still unable to discuss the assault. But yesterday, as teachers at a conference in Bournemouth voiced 'growing concern' over attacks, Mrs McQuiston's husband, Sammy, a teacher, said: 'Teaching was all my wife ever wanted to do. She taught for 12 years and she loved the children and the job.'

Mrs McQuiston, a mother of two, was taken to hospital for treatment for face, chest and stomach injuries. She still suffers sudden panic, and is afraid in crowds and is less tolerant.

The Ulster Teachers' Union, which fought Mrs McQuiston's case, said the award was little compensation for the loss of a promising career. Her attacker was given a 12-month conditional discharge.

Pocket-size personal alarms sold out at the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers conference in Bournemouth yesterday. The pounds 3 alarms have proved so popular with men and women teachers that the union is considering supplying them to members.

Nigel de Gruchy, NASUWT general secretary, said attacks on teachers were causing growing concern and teachers had to defend themselves.