School injury claims bill is over £800,000 in five years

 

One family received more than £10,000 for a head injury to their child

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Over £800,000 in compensation has been paid out after children were involved in accidents at schools in Wales over the last five years, figures reveal.

Payouts include £10,500 for a pupil "playfully pushed" into a window and £1,000 for hot food splashing a child.

Claims were also made for a child running into goal posts and the incorrect application of first aid.

The Conservatives' shadow education minister Angela Burns said the compensation culture should be stopped.

She said that although some claims were genuine, they were being trivialised by the amount of "ridiculous" claims prompted by a desire to make money.

Some of the claims brought against schools in Wales

  • Pupil slipped on ice in playground
  • Claimant caught foot under gate
  • Pupil got a splinter in his buttocks
  • Pupil suffered hip injury on a trampoline
  • Pupil caught fingers in door
  • Incorrect application of first aid - blistering from ice packs
  • Fire door swung back at pupil's face
  • Pupil ran into goalposts

The figures, released to BBC Wales by Welsh councils after a Freedom of Information (FoI) request, show that 312 claims were successful against schools, resulting in payouts of over £802,000 between 2008/09 and 2012/13.

Newport paid out the most in compensation at £248,131 for 44 cases, followed by Rhondda Cynon Taf at £189,934 for 10 cases, Cardiff at £100,117 for 74 claims and Flintshire at nearly £80,000 for 10 cases brought.

Neath Port Talbot provided no information.

Mrs Burns said it was time to look at the whole system around compensation claims, particularly at the lawyers offering "no win no fee" deals to encourage people to take legal action following accidents.

Start Quote

I even know of a teacher who was told she should stop building snowmen with her class after one of the parents complained that her child had been wet and cold”

End Quote Amanda Thomas University of South Wales

"We have to stop it. Sometimes things do happen, accidents do happen," she said.

"There's an awful lot of ridiculous stuff going on. Don't we want our children to grow up to be healthy and enjoy being outdoors?

"It's about balance and common sense."

However solicitor Peter Maynard of Newport-based fwdlaw Associates dismissed the idea of a compensation culture, a view he said was backed by Master of the Rolls Lord Dyson - head of civil justice in England and Wales - in a lecture in March.

Mr Maynard said: "If you or someone you love was maimed or injured as a result of someone else's stupidity or recklessness, do you not think they should be able to recover a reasonable sum in compensation?

"That is all I believe they should be entitled to, nothing more, nothing less. Instead, it is implied that spurious or exaggerated claims are resulting in pots of money being handed out willy-nilly."

Filling forms

Education experts said they believed the situation had got worse in the last 10 years, with some teachers now afraid to take children on school trips, to treat pupils with first aid and even build snowmen.

Amanda Thomas, a lecturer in early years education at the University of South Wales, said: "I know of teachers who have stopped taking children on school trips.

"When I did teacher training, health and safety didn't really factor. Now it's gone to the other extreme. With my teaching students we run a simulated school trip and the amount of forms they have to fill in is ridiculous.

Start Quote

If you have dilapidated buildings, that is going to put children at risk of accidents”

End Quote Owen Hathway NUT Cymru

"Some schools have also banned children from playing conkers and from doing handstands against the wall in the school playground.

"Other schools do not let teachers put suntan lotion on children and some of our students - particularly the men - who go on placements to schools are told not to sit a child on their lap after they are injured in case of complaints.

"I even know of a teacher who was told she should stop building snowmen with her class after one of the parents complained that her child had been wet and cold."

Ms Thomas, who taught nursery and reception classes for 10 years before going into lecturing, added: "It's mad because in Wales we're teaching the Foundation Phase in schools now, which is all about learning through doing and teaching outside in any weather.

"But then teachers are having to do that against a background of compensation claims."

Owen Hathway, Wales policy officer for the teaching union NUT Cymru, said he believed the fear of being sued was often at the back of head teachers' minds.

"You only have to look at the reaction of schools on snow days," he said.

"Head teachers often take the decision to close schools as there is the potential for compensation claims if a child slips or falls."

But he said he also believed councils should be investing in schools in a bid to stop accidents.

"Are councils investing in making schools fit for purpose?" he added.

"If you have dilapidated buildings, that is going to put children at risk of accidents."

Compensation claims in schools

Local authorities Number of successful claims Total paid from 2008/09 to 2012/13

Source: BBC Wales freedom of information request to Welsh councils

Anglesey

4

£8,999

Blaenau Gwent

2

£0 (one case ongoing)

Bridgend

22

£5,300

Caerphilly

43

£59,026

Cardiff

74

£100,117

Carmarthenshire

24

£13,250 (12 cases ongoing)

Ceredigion

0

£0

Conwy

1

£20,694

Denbighshire

11

£8,300 (one case ongoing)

Flintshire

10

£79,977 (six cases ongoing)

Gwynedd

13

£3,525 (eight cases ongoing)

Merthyr Tydfil

No information provided

£2,050

Monmouthshire

0

£0

Neath Port Talbot

No information provided

No information provided

Newport

44

£248,131

Pembrokeshire

6

£19,755

Powys

4

£0

Rhondda Cynon Taf

10

£189,934

Swansea

0

0

Torfaen

24

£4,085 (15 cases ongoing)

Vale of Glamorgan

15

£32,950

Wrexham

5

Approx £6,000

WALES

312

£802,093

 

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  • rate this
    +31

    Comment number 22.

    Slipping on ice, splinters etc are all normal hazards of childhood & should be treated as such. Schools have responsibility to ensure reasonable safety, but it should stop at commonsense stuff. Suing should be an option only when there is real negligence. Who benefits?

    Parents responsibility includes children starting yr 1 able to dress themselves, share politely & manage their own toilet needs!

  • rate this
    +29

    Comment number 17.

    The lawyers call it "litigation", I call it "greed".
    The desire to grab whatever you can because it's there. Grab money from the NHS because you can, don't give any consideration to those who won't get the treatment they need because the money's run out.
    Complain about car insurance rocketing but put in a claim for backlash, because you can.
    We're becoming a very selfish nation. Thanks lawyers.

  • rate this
    +24

    Comment number 28.

    Where has this blame and claim culture come from? It's almost parasitic. As a child you learn from your mistakes so you don't do it again. It's about moulding you into a better adult; this blaming schools for "negligence" etc. surely goes against this.

    *sigh* next we'll be claiming against the National Trust and the Council for allowing trees to grow tall enough to climb up and then fall off!

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 12.

    It is time we ditched the idea that if something happens to us it is always someone elses fault and the only thing that will make us feel better is money. Accidents happen, move on

  • rate this
    +17

    Comment number 37.

    I suffered four of the eight sample 'injuries' listed in the sidebar, plus many more, including beatings by teachers. Can these claims be retrospective?
    Whatever happened to the rough and tumble of growing up? No wonder so many kids are now allergy-ridden cry babies.

 

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