Keeping Your Child Safe at School

In April 2014, both the Manchester Evening News and The Yorkshire Post reported that schools in the Greater Manchester area and Yorkshire had paid out £1.5 million and over £1 million pounds respectively for personal injury claims.  Payouts included:

• £22,000 to a student injured in a school activity in Tameside
• £8,000 awarded to a pupil in Rochdale after goal posts fell on him
• £9,494 awarded to a child who was injured after being pushed by another child
• £35,000 paid to a student in Leeds who suffered a broken limb
• £16.000 awarded to a pupil injured during a science experiment

Wayne Dunning, from ELAS Health and Safety Consultants, who compiled the reports detailing school personal injury claims stated;

“These figures are shocking and clearly not enough is being done to protect children in schools from what are, in the main, preventable accidents. Health and safety is not being managed properly in the education sector and this is costing taxpayers millions, not only in direct compensation, but also additional hidden costs from administration. It’s clear from the nature of the accidents that many areas are being overlooked by school managers and teachers, not through any fault of their own, but because they haven’t received the necessary training required to identify the potential risks and hazards that may prevent an accident”.

Responsibility for safety standards

In light of these figures, parents maybe asking themselves, “who is responsible for safety standards at my child’s school, and what can I do if I feel that the standards are not high enough?”

According to the UK Government website, every school should have its own health and safety policy document.  Parents should be able to access and read this document at anytime.

Health and Safety Executive (HSE)

If your child is involved in an incident at school you can report it to the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) who will investigate the situation and may prosecute the school if they find there was negligence.

In June 2013 Manningtree High School in Essex was fined £9,000 and ordered to pay £1,641 in costs after pleading guilty of breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 for failing to adequately protect pupils against the risk of falls.  The incident in question involved a 14 year old pupil falling from a climbing wall while participating in lead-climbing, and fracturing his heel bone.  The HSE found that the school did not have an adequate safety management system in place for lead-climbing and that the instructor who was present was not competent to teach or supervise the activity.

Injuries in schools

According to HSE statistics slips, trips and falls account for around 40% of all injuries recorded in schools.

However, although it is important to keep children safe and protected from major harm, many adults react strongly to any push towards a “cotton wool culture” for children.  People recognise the importance of free play and the need for children to learn risk-assessment by actually taking the odd risk.

In 2012 the HSE released a high level statement emphasising how important play is for children’s development and wellbeing.  Its key message to play providers (which includes schools) was ‘Those providing play opportunities should focus on controlling the real risks, while securing or increasing the benefits – not on the paperwork’.

The balancing between the need to take risks in order to learn and keeping vulnerable children safe is something both parents and schools struggle to maintain.  However, you have a right to expect that your child will be safe at school and be protected from serious physical and psychological injury while they in their school’s care.

You could be entitled to make a personal injury claim, more detailed information can be found here. To speak to someone now about your claim, call us in complete confidence on 0845 345 4444, or fill in this contact form and we’ll get straight back to you.