Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Boys will be boys

In a period where the children's rights lobby worry about children being treated as 'trainee adults' and a DCSF minister declares that children have the same rights as adults, the judgement in a somewhat unusual case, where a lunchtime supervisor sued not a school but a schoolboy, is a little refreshing.

The facts of the case were that a boy, who was playing tag and gesticulating to the boy chasing him, ran backwards into a walkway by the playground and collided with a lunchtime supervisor. His head hit hers and she was seriously injured.

A critical issue in proving negligence is foreseeability. This made it difficult to target the school for damages, even though the school authorities recognised after the incident that accidents might happen and made a rule accordingly. The question therefore was whether the student could be held able to foresee the possibility of the injury and if so, whether his conduct was reckless.

The appeal court judges rather charmingly concluded that "13 year-old boys will be 13 year-old boys who play tag. They will run backwards and they will taunt each other. If that is what they are doing and they are not breaking any rules, they should not be held liable in negligence.

"Parents and schools are there to control children and it would be a retrograde step to visit liability on a 13 year-old for simply playing a game in the area where he was allowed to."

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