Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Risk assessment for violent pupils

A case in a Scottish Sheriff Court (McCarthy v Highland Council) involving a violent pupil may act as a warning for schools.

A teacher in a special school was assaulted several times by an autistic boy. She subsequently suffered from a depressive illness related to post traumatic stress disorder.

The problem was that the school failed to institute measures that might have prevented these attacks or at least limited their severity. She rightly took legal action and the court found for her. The school had not assessed the risk, which was foreseeable, and had failed to implement effective steps to prevent it.

This has clear implications for the sadly not uncommon situation where a local authority directs a school to take an excluded pupil.

Before admitting an excluded pupil, schools should insist on obtaining in writing a risk assessment from the local authority, or at least a written contribution to the risk assessment that the school will make.

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