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Teachers given millions in payouts

Published 03/04/2015

The NASUWT says it secured compensation of around £19.8 million for its members in 2014
The NASUWT says it secured compensation of around £19.8 million for its members in 2014

Teachers were awarded tens of millions of pounds in compensation last year after facing attacks from pupils, injuries and discrimination at school.

One retired 70-year-old teacher from the East Midlands was awarded more than £200,000 after being diagnosed with mesothelioma - an asbestos-related cancer.

In another case, a London school worker who was assaulted by an autistic student received compensation totalling nearly £180,000.

There are also examples of teachers receiving smaller payouts due to accidents in the workplace, including a teacher who received £5,000 after getting her foot caught in a coat lying on a cloakroom floor, and one who was awarded £2,700 after a badly-fitted water heater fell on her as she made a cup of tea.

The NASUWT said it had secured compensation of around £19.8 million for its members in 2014. This is down slightly from £20.7 million in 2013.

It said the largest personal injury claim was £210,000 for the retired science teacher diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2013.

Between 1973 and 1984 she had taught in classrooms that had asbestos in the prefabricated buildings, ceiling tiles and wall panels. In one the tiles regularly fell down and in another they were replaced during term time and during the school day, NASUWT said, adding that as the teacher taught science, she also had to regularly handle asbestos mats.

Other claims include £85,000 for a 63-year-old school worker from Yorkshire and Humberside who suffered a broken hand, stress and anxiety due to being assaulted and tackled to the floor by a pupil as she took them out of the classroom after they attacked another pupil.

A 53-year-old East Midlands teacher who suffered a serious head injury due to tripping on a defective carpet and falling against classroom shelves was awarded £74,598.89.

NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates said: "The tragedy is that in most cases compensation would be unnecessary if employers followed good employment practices and appropriate health and safety procedures.

"Instead, teachers have their careers, lives and health blighted and millions of pounds of public money has to be spent in compensation.

"Employers flout the law, but it's the teachers and the taxpayers who pay the price."

She added that behind each of the cases is someone who has been damaged physically or mentally because of injury or unfair dismissal.

"The distress and pressure of the incident to the individual teacher and their family has often been compounded by years of legal action and court proceedings before any award is made," Ms Keates said.

"While compensation is important, it can never make up for the fact that many of these teachers suffer permanent physical and mental injury and often cannot continue in their chosen career."

Separate data from the NUT, which does not publish an overall compensation figure, shows that one of their members was assaulted by an autistic pupil who punched her in the legs during a day trip out, leaving her with permanent nerve damage to her knee and forcing her to undergo knee replacement surgery. She was awarded compensation of £178,000.

Another NUT member received £136,710 in a Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority (CICA) claim brought after she was assaulted by a 14-year-old pupil in April 2010. She suffered a prolapsed disc in her neck and depression as a result and was dismissed from her school on account of long-term sick leave in May 2011.

The figures also show that one teacher had his CICA award more than doubled from £61,561 to £150,613. The school worker, from the South West, had been assaulted at the pupil referral unit he was teaching at and was signed off with a psychological injury, with evidence that he was unable to return to teaching.

The union applied for a review on the basis that an assessor had concluded that there was no evidence that the teacher would continue to suffer a disabling mental illness for more than five years, arguing that the evidence was there. As a result, the award was increased.

Both the teacher who received a payout after injuring her leg and knee by getting her foot caught in a coat and the teacher who was awarded compensation after suffering bruising and symptoms of anxiety due to a poorly-installed water heater falling on her were NUT members.

The Association of Teachers and Lecturers said it had achieved almost £5.5 million for members in compromise agreements, over £150,000 for members who lodged employment tribunal claims and over £1 million for injured members and their families.

The data comes on the day that the NUT and NASUWT are due to meet for their annual conferences, in Harrogate and Cardiff respectively.

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