Teachers awarded more than £30m in compensation following surge in physical attacks on staff by pupils

Cuts to support staff following a squeeze on school spending are leaving teachers increasingly vulnerable, union leaders warn 

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
Friday 14 April 2017 00:37 BST
Teachers reported being headbutted, punched and pushed to the ground by violent students, resulting in serious phsyical psychological damage in some cases
Teachers reported being headbutted, punched and pushed to the ground by violent students, resulting in serious phsyical psychological damage in some cases (Getty)

Teachers have been awarded tens of millions of pounds in compensation over the past year following a surge in physical attacks on staff by pupils.

Compensation payouts to teachers have soared in the past 12 months, with one teaching union alone securing almost £28m for its members.

Industry leaders have blamed “extreme budget cuts”, which have forced many schools to cut staff numbers – in turn leaving teachers without adequate support in the classroom.

Teachers reported being head-butted, punched in the face and pushed to the ground by violent students, resulting in broken bones, strains and serious psychological damage in some cases.

Six-figure sums were brokered for those with the worst injuries.

In one instance, a member staff from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) was awarded £125,000 after being subject to “bullying and harassment” which led her to become ill with a “significant and debilitating psychiatric injury” and unable to return to work.

A teacher and member of the NASUWT union received more than £98,000 relating to “serious psychological injuries” after an assault by a pupil.

Another was given nearly £48,000 in compensation after being subjected to a “prolonged assault” by a female pupil at an academy in the North West of England who “flew into a rage” after being told to stop chewing gum.

Compensation won by NASUWT members increased by 72 per cent this year, up from £16.1m in 2015.

More than £4.7m was won by members of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the NUT gave selected examples equating to £338,532.

The figures come amid accusations that the Government has given “little incentive” to employers to improve the school working environment.

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT union, said cuts to support staff were inevitably leaving teachers more isolated and vulnerable in challenging and sometimes violent situations.

“There isn’t enough support either inside or outside the classroom for teachers in dealing with pupil behaviour.

“The cuts to support staff are inevitably leaving teachers more isolated in dealing with indiscipline and without this assistance teachers are more vulnerable.

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“Teachers are there to teach, they are not employed as crowd control or bouncers and as such need the support of a fully resourced school workforce to encourage positive pupil behaviour.”

A survey this week revealed the majority of schools were having to make drastic changes in order to plug holes left by real-terms cuts to pupil spending.

As many as 80 per cent of secondary school headteachers polled by the Sutton Trust said their school had cut back on teaching staff or teaching assistants to save money and over a quarter said their support staff had been cut back.

Analysis of English council spending on local services from 2010-11 to 2014-15 showed a 25 per cent drop in health and safety expenditure.

A number of teachers received smaller sums of money after having accidents in the workplace relating to falling building materials and slipping on unsafe surfaces.

“The lack of both appropriate inspection, accountability and enforcement, which is a role traditionally played by local authorities, is forcing many of our members to have to seek redress, including through the courts,” Ms Keates said.

”This is symptomatic of a system where some employers feel they can disregard the rights of the workforce, to discriminate, to fail to meet their health and safety obligations and to harass and victimise teachers with impunity.

“Our compensation figures indicate that as a union, we are not prepared to allow our members to suffer at the hands of unscrupulous employers.”

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