Assaults at school lead to big rise in teacher compensation claims, union says

Compensation payouts increased from almost £300,000 to more than £500,000 in a year, the EIS union said.

Assaults at school lead to big rise in teacher compensation claims, union says iStock

Violence in schools has caused compensation claims from teachers to soar by more than £220,000 in a year, Scotland’s largest teaching union has said.

Figures from the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) showed a total of £541,499 was paid out to the union’s members in personal injury claims in 2023.

The figure is a stark jump from the £295,597 secured for workplace injuries in 2022.

In a single settlement, a teacher was paid out £180,000 after a school assault left them with a serious injury.

There were five assault claims in total, with a teacher who was assaulted on three separate occasions awarded £28,469.

A teacher punched in the face by a pupil, resulting in a hairline fracture to the jaw, was paid £6,020, while another teacher who was headbutted causing damage to the teeth, received £4,500.

Another teacher was paid £1,500 after they were assaulted trying to break up a fight between pupils. The union said the staff member sustained a laceration to the temple which needed stitches.

The other seven claims were a result of accident and health claims, including £135,000 for a member who broke their ankle in two places and £100,000 for a slip on a wet floor.

EIS general secretary Andrea Bradley has urged local authorities and the Scottish Government to take “urgent action” to ensure teachers can work without fear of assault or injury.

She said the rise in violent incidents was “worrying”.

“Pursuing compensation for teachers injured or assaulted in our schools is never a pleasant task, but it is an area of work where the EIS will always give its all on behalf of our members,” she said.

“No one deserves to suffer injury or assault in their workplace, which is why local authorities – as the employers of teachers – have a legal duty of care to ensure a safe working environment for all school staff.

“Worryingly, as the rise in violent incidents in recent years can attest, our schools are currently not as safe as they should be for staff and pupils.”

Ms Bradley said personal injury settlements would typically have involved “slips, trips and falls” in previous years.

“This year, however, more than 40% of the settlements that we are highlighting were because teachers had been assaulted in their place of work,” she added.

“Local authorities and the Scottish Government must take urgent action to make our schools properly safe, and to ensure that all staff and pupils can work without fear of assault or injury.”

The EIS is calling for additional resources, including additional staffing, to support pupils who are likely to exhibit distressed or violent behaviour.

Ms Bradley added: “Local authorities and the Scottish Government must work together to deliver safer schools, so that school staff can work without fear of physical harm for any reason and so that all young people can learn in a safe, secure and nurturing environment.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Scotland’s schools should be safe learning environments for all – violence and abusive behaviour towards pupils or staff is completely unacceptable.

“The Education Secretary has been clear that more needs to be done to address incidents of behaviour, which is why the Scottish Government is bringing forward a National Action Plan – this will set out a range of actions needed at both local and national level.

“We are committed to working with trade union partners on the development of this plan.

“On safety more widely, local authorities have a statutory responsibility to protect pupils and teachers. Where a local authority does not comply with health and safety legislation, it is for the Health and Safety Executive to determine what enforcement action is appropriate and proportional to the health and safety risk.”

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