School injury claims rocket

Councillor Ralph Berry

Councillor Ralph Berry

First published in News

The number of compensation claims made against Bradford Council after pupils suffered injuries at school almost doubled in a year.

Children being hit by a swinging school bell, whacked in the mouth by a hockey stick and tripping over a chair led to claims being made against the local authority in the past financial year.

But although 25 claims were made in 2012/13, none led to pay-outs.

One teaching union said the figures were demonstrative of a “compensation culture”.

“Common sense has flown out of the window and greed has flown in,” said Pam Milner, national executive member for the North and West Yorkshire branch of teaching union NASUWT.

“Growing up, if something happened and you were messing about, it was your own fault.

“It’s getting silly. We’re far too American now, and whatever they do we do a few years later.

“The compensation culture is something that needs urgent quashing – Bradford certainly hasn’t got the money for it. Everybody is running absolutely scared of health and safety and the possibility of being sued.”

Mrs Milner added the situation was detrimental to children’s education, as schools were less likely to arrange trips out.

“But we can’t cut back everything – what are we meant to do, just sit children in classrooms doing the three Rs?”she said.

A request under the Freedom of Information Act showed in the financial year 2012/13, 25 claims were made against the Council for incidents, including a pupil catching their finger in a door and a fall from a slide leading to a broken nose.

There were 13 claims in 2011/12, resulting in one pay-out of £4,100 after a primary school pupil caught their arm on a bolt protruding from a fence.

The previous year there were 22 claims leading to two payments. One was for £1,400 after a primary pupil tripped over a rope in a PE lesson and hit their face on a cupboard, and one for £6,146 when a primary school pupil trapped their finger in a door hinge.

The councillor responsible for children and young people’s services in Bradford has called for common sense from parents. “It still costs us money to have to deal with [claims which lead to no payments],” said Councillor Ralph Berry. “It’s almost a plea for common sense in what’s becoming a compensation culture with the ambulance-chasers approach.”

He said there was a difference between situations where schools may be culpable for a child’s health and safety and genuine accidents.

But as a public body, the Council has to investigate each claim.

“What’s actually happening is we’re wasting time and money that could be used to deliver frontline services,” Coun Berry, left, said, adding some people may be “on the make”.

A spokesman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said: “Potential hazards need to be identified and managed through risk assessment rather than being overly risk-averse, so that a worthwhile and educational activity does not take place. A risk-averse culture still remains within some schools, which continues to have a detrimental effect on learning and play, and can limit pupils’ experiences.”

He said the ‘no win, no fee’ companies possibly tempted parents into claims that would have once been considered as accidents. He said there were regular union-led health and safety visits to schools across Bradford.

Between 2011 and 2013, school staff made 39 compensation claims leading to five pay-outs totalling £18,346.70.

Those included £4,200 after a falling table broke someone’s finger and £3,400 when someone was scalded by water.

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