Revealed - The £13,000 compensation payout for Suffolk student whose foot was trapped in broken door
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Figures obtained by our reporters show that the total compensation bill paid to pupils injured in playground accidents in the last three years is almost half a million pounds.
These include £21,845, including legal costs, for a student injured during playtime due to inadequate supervision, £13,358.35 after a pupil’s foot was trapped in a defective door and £11,075.25 for cuts caused by a defective door.
There was also £9,007 paid out after a student slipped on wet grass while wearing inappropriate footwear during an organised event – leading to broken or chipped bones – and £6,382.35 after medication was accessed due to inadequate supervision.
The largest payout by Suffolk County Council was for £426,283.39 to more than one pupil for “sexual abuse by teacher”. The figures have been revealed through a request for information by this newspaper under the Freedom of Information Act.
A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said this amount of claims to the local authority was considered normal, adding there is a dedicated insurance fund for such payments.
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She said: “The county council’s health and safety team works closely with schools to ensure that all health and safety standards are being met and wherever there is a need arrange for appropriate training to take place.”
She added a dedicated team of professional claims handlers worked hard to ensure that payments were made only when there is liability on the county council’s part.
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None of the injuries suffered were as the result of an attack by another student. And the extent of the injuries or harm in each case is not clear.
Graham White, Suffolk secretary for the National Union of Teachers, said: “I think we are becoming much more of a litigious culture and that’s not helpful. Pupils are very aware of their rights, but not necessarily their responsibilities.” However, he did not believe the fear of being sued was a major issue for teachers, adding they are much more concerned about workload, pay and pensions. “I think they would say they take reasonable steps to minimise the risk of accidents.”
He added: “As we move towards more academies and free schools so it becomes their responsibility. It may be there are in fact far more compensation claims, but they are not being paid out by Suffolk County Council.”
Jonathan Isaby, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “Clearly the priority when it comes to sexual abuse is doing something –anything – to attempt to right a dreadful wrong.”
Mr. Isaby went on to say that, in his opinion, there were too many cases in which the council was providing a sub-standard environment, or was paying out too easily, adding: ”At a time of necessary financial restraint this has to change.”
In total, £487,952 – including fees – was paid out over the three years, with no compensation issued in 2012/13, £39,302.67 in 2013/14 and £448,649.04 in 2014/15. The payments refer to when the compensation was issued, not when the injury happened.