Education & Family

Teachers awarded millions in compensation last year

School sign
Image caption Unions said poor health and safety practices in schools was to blame for many claims

Teachers were awarded millions in compensation last year for accidents, assaults and injuries suffered on school grounds, figures show.

Cases included that of one teacher who received £200,000 after slipping on a grape, aggravating an existing hernia and leaving him unable to work.

The NASUWT union told the Times Educational Supplement that its members had received £10.5m in compensation.

The Association of Teachers said it had won £5m for its members.

'Cold comfort'

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said the level of compensation was no cause for celebration.

"What this figure illustrates is the cost to the public purse of employers' poor or discriminatory employment practices and failure to pay due regard to health and safety in the workplace," she said.

"Behind each of these cases is a person whose life has been changed through serious injury or unfair dismissal from their chosen career.

"Compensation is important but it is cold comfort if your health is irreparably damaged or your professional career has ended."

Cases highlighted include a 49-year-old from the West Midlands who received a settlement of £100,000 after suffering from a compressed disc in her back when she slipped on spilt food in the school's lunch hall.

Another NUT member, who also slipped on a grape, was awarded £20,000 compensation after fracturing her hip.

A NASUWT member received £80,000 after slipping in a school dining room, fracturing bones in her leg, tearing ligaments behind her knee and damaging nerves. She was unable to return to teaching.

The biggest single out-of-court settlement awarded to an NASUWT member for a personal injury claim in 2010 was £292,795.

This was awarded to a 40-year-old who tripped on a pothole in a school car park, injuring his back. He had to undergo surgery and has been unable to return to work.

The National Union of Teachers, which represented the teacher who slipped on a grape, said the payout covered loss of earnings and pension.

"Evidence showed that the school were aware of littering problems around the school but had not taken action to prevent or minimise it," the union said.

In an assault case, £202,108 was received by a 51-year-old who was injured in November 2004 as she tried to stop a fight between two pupils.

One of the pupils attacked her and she suffered injuries to her back and shoulder. She also developed mental anxiety and was unable to return to work.

In employment claims, the NASUWT union obtained a settlement of £35,417 for a 50-year-old teacher in the North West, after unfair dismissal following gender reassignment steps.