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Essex: More than £220,000 paid in compensation to injured pupils in school accidents

PUBLISHED: 09:03 05 March 2013 | UPDATED: 09:03 05 March 2013

Should we raid council reserves?

Should we raid council reserves?

MORE than £220,000 has been paid out in compensation to pupils following accidents at schools, new figures have revealed.

The damage payouts – recorded from 2008 to 2010, the latest figures available with 2011 and 2012 claims awaiting settlement – include a £23,580 successful claim for an injury sustained following a fall from “defective monkey bars”.

Another £28,972 was paid out for an injury after a student’s face struck a wooden window ledge, while £24,650 was won following an injury to a pupil falling from climbing equipment.

The table of payments – which totals £227,137 – was released by Essex County Council after a request under the Freedom of Information by the EADT.

Out of the 17 successful claims for compensation in the last five years – which included costs as well as damages in the payment figures – one was due to snow or ice.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “Essex County Council takes its health, safety and wellbeing responsibilities seriously and is committed to complying with its legal, moral and financial obligations.

“We insure 500 schools in Essex. When a claim is made it is investigated thoroughly and damages are awarded if Essex County Council has been negligent.”

A further £27,780 was successfully claimed for following an injury due to a slip on wet floor and the highest payout, totalling £30,544, was for an injury due to a trip down a step.

Essex County Council councillor Julie Young said some parents might find the figures worrying – and insisted schools should do more to improve health and safety.

Mrs Young said: “Health and safety is an important issue, especially with children at school, and I think some parents will be concerned with these high figures.

“Parents need to know that they are sending their children to safe schools and it is important the issue of their health and safety is treated seriously and importantly.

“It is my understanding the council offers training but I question whether there is enough analysis done. I think more needs to be done.”

Jonathan Isaby, Political Director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said he was worried about the rise in “compensation culture”.

He said: “Taxpayers will be astonished at this bill which they are footing.

“There will be some perfectly legitimate claims because of negligence but, at the end of the day, accidents happen.

“In recent years there has been a worrying rise in the compensation culture and taxpayers should certainly not be footing the bill for cases where a bit of common sense would have avoided the accident.“

Sociology professor Frank Furedi said: “Demanding compensation from schools is immoral, because the taxpaying public have to cough up the cash.

“It forces teachers and headteachers into an ‘avoiding risk’ culture – whereby school trips go down and the rules of physical activity are changed, making the children less competitive.”

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