Given the vital role that teachers play in the raising and education of our children, it is not unreasonable to expect that they should be able to carry out their daily duties in an environment that is free from the risk of injury. While not all accidents can be avoided, there is a great deal that can be done to ensure that school teachers are safe whilst at work.
However, in British schools, teachers face the daily risk of physical injury from poorly maintained school buildings, unsafe furniture and fittings, insufficient sanitation, lack of appropriate safety equipment, and mental trauma caused by aggressive pupils, extreme pressure, and bullying peers.
Millions of pounds paid in compensation to teachers each year
The amount of compensation awarded each year by local authorities and schools is considerable. In 2014, the largest teaching unions collectively successfully won over £40 million for a wide range of injury claims.
The largest single case in that year was a pay-out of £210,000 to a retired teacher who had received a diagnosis of mesothelioma, caused by exposure to asbestos. Asbestos is a significant risk factor even today for thousands of schools across the UK, even necessitating specific training for staff to ensure they avoid contact with the dangerous material.
In 2016 the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT)union reported that they had successfully secured damages of £185,000 for a 59 year old teacher, who after being knocked to the ground by a pupil, required spinal surgery due to a slipped disc. In another claim, the same union won £100,000 for a 55 year old teacher who suffered a head injury after falling back when a chair he was sitting on broke, causing his head to hit the concrete floor heavily. The subsequent investigation revealed that the chair had three missing screws. This particular incident highlights that encouraging regular maintenance and safety inspections in schools can have a significant impact on preventing injury to both staff and students.
Research shows that teachers are at significant risk of mental and physical injury
The statistics for teacher deaths and injuries do not make pleasant reading. In March 2017, The Independent reported that due to being, “one of the most highly stressed occupations in the country today”, teaching staff in primary and nursery schools are nearly twice as likely to take their own life. In 2015, the ATL teachers union undertook a study into workplace safety, discovering that four out of 10 teachers reported experiencing violence from students, including pushing, kicking or had objects propelled at them.
The prevalence of weapons is another worrying aspect of school culture. According to The Evening Standard, the number of London school pupils with knives has doubled since 2011 (up to 299 reported cases from 152).
Who is responsible?
It is the responsibility of the local authorities and schools to ensure that staff have safe working environment. If you have suffered a physical or mental injury, whether temporarily or permanently, and the authority, school or an employee is found to have been negligent, you may be able to seek compensation.
Can I make a claim?
To initiate the claims process, it is advisable to instruct a personal injury solicitor who is experienced in workplace injury compensation claims. Your solicitor will assess the chance of successfully winning damages based on the details of your case, and may work on a no-win, no-fee basis. In order to maximise your chance of making a successful claim, it is recommended that you gather as much evidence as you can. By taking photographs of the cause and aftermath of your accident and if appropriate, keeping diaries of events, gather a list of witnesses and any other relevant and useful evidence, you will maximise your chance of securing damages.
Financial compensation can make a considerable difference not only to your physical and mental recovery, but also ensure that you can replace any out of pocket costs that you have incurred and help cover your bills, especially if you have been forced to take absence from employment because of your injury.
At Russell Worth Solicitors we specialise in personal injury claims. If you have been injured whilst in a school and would like a free claim assessment so that you can understand your rights, please call us now on 0800 028 2060 or complete our Online Claim Assessment.