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Last Updated: Monday, 28 March, 2005, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Teacher payouts 'reach new high'
School gates
Discipline is getting worse, says the chief schools inspector
Compensation payments to teachers due to accidents and pupil attacks have hit an all-time high, it has been claimed.

The National Union of Teachers said its members were awarded 2m in 2004, with incidents including a pupil pouring a kettle of boiling water over a teacher.

Union officials blamed dilapidated buildings for some of the teachers' injuries, noting one member died after exposure to asbestos dust at school.

The government has recently pledged "zero tolerance" of bad behaviour.

'Post-traumatic shock'

The chief schools inspector has also recently warned that discipline is getting worse.

"A kettle of hot water was poured over a member in Newcastle-upon-Tyne by a pupil, which resulted in scalding to the left arm and left side of the chest," said the NUT report.

"The member suffered post-traumatic shock disorder. After a while, the member returned to work but not to her previous position."

The volume of these cases is still something of a reflection of the state of school buildings
Graham Clayton, NUT senior solicitor

The teacher suffered loss of earnings and was paid 5,000 by the local education authority.

In east London, a teacher suffered serious leg injuries after she was attacked by a pupil, and another was left with head injuries after an attack by a parent.

"Whilst the majority of awards are below 10,000, several cases resulted in high awards, up to 232,000," said the NUT.

Payout rise

The NUT said many of the payments were for "slips and trips" on carpets and wet floors, blaming dilapidated school buildings for some of the accidents.

One teacher was compensated 135,237 posthumously after she was exposed to asbestos dust at school and died from cancer.

Graham Clayton, NUT senior solicitor, said: "The volume of these cases is still something of a reflection of the state of school buildings.

"We have still to look forward to making an improvement in the accident figures."

Total pay-outs could rise to 6m as other claims are settled thanks to the court precedents from the 200 completed cases last year, he added.

But the Department for Education and SKills said there was no evidence to suggest compensation payouts to teachers were at record levels.

"We are spending record amounts to upgrade school buildings and replace temporary buildings," a spokeswoman said.

"After decades of chronic underfunding we have increased spending on school buildings from 683m in 1997 to 6.3bn in the period 2007-08 - a massive six-fold increase in real terms."

Eventually every secondary school in England would be refurbished or rebuilt.

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