Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Advice from the hotline...

The ASCL hotline is a completely confidential service available to answer members' questions on issues that arise in school/college. The questions and answers below are based on real calls to the hotline. To protect confidentiality, all scenarios have been anonymised. If you need advice on a personal or professional issue, call 0116 299 1122 and ask for the hotline officer.

Stress claims cause stress

Q A member of the support staff at our college has been away from work since November and has been diagnosed as suffering from stress. Word has reached us that he is intending to bring a personal injury claim against us. Can he do this? Restructuring this year has made it stressful for many staff but no more for him than others.

A Although it is healthy to experience some stress in our daily lives, it has been recognised since 1995 that stress is potentially a contributory factor in personal injury cases. For a personal injury claim to succeed the employer must be in breach of its duty of care. This implies taking steps to ensure an employee's safety in the light of what the employer knows or ought to know. In addition it must have been reasonably foreseeable that injury to the employee would result from the breach of duty of care.

If the member of staff does take action, is most likely that he will sue for negligence through the court. There is no legal aid for personal injury claims but he may have a lawyer who will support him on a 'no win no fee' arrangement. Of course stress itself is not enough - it will have to be proved that there was damage to his physical or mental health.

If and when news of a possible claim arrives, it will be important to notify the school's insurers straightaway to activate insurance cover.

Employer's duty to provide first-aid

Q What are our duties with regard to first aid in school? This has recently come up as some staff have said they would be unwilling to give first aid to pupils on the basis that they aren't qualified medical staff.

A It is the responsibility of the employer to provide adequate and appropriate equipment, facilities and qualified personnel to ensure that employees receive immediate attention if they are injured or taken ill at work.

The regulations do not place a legal duty on employers to make first-aid provision for non-employees, which includes the public or children at the school. However the Health and Safety Executive strongly recommends that non-employees are included in assessment of first aid needs and that provision is made for them.

The governing body should regularly review such assessments and provision. It may be assumed that the school has a duty of care towards pupils which includes the provision of first aid. However, teachers cannot be instructed to give medical attention so you will need to make sure that the school has other arrangements, such as a school nurse, and puts in place suitable procedures for contacting parents and emergency services.

Excellent and detailed advice, including information regarding the contents and location of first aid-boxes is available in a booklet Guidance on First Aid for Schools on www.teachernet.org.uk Details of other publication including accident books are available at www.teachernet.gov.uk/wholeschool/healthandsafety/firstaid

If an offer sounds too good to be true...

Q I've been telephoned by an organisation which asked for me by name, as the head, and told me that the school had been specially selected to appear in a publication and if I paid 4,000 we would be able to have a double page entry. At first I felt rather proud that we had been 'selected' but when I said I needed to think it over, the sales person became aggressive and I ended the call. I don't really want me or other staff to be subjected to unsolicited callers trying to sell products and services. Is there anything we can do?

A You can register the school number(s) - and your own home number - with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). This is a free service and is the official central opt out register on which you can record your preference not to receive unsolicited sales or marketing calls.

It is a legal requirement that all organisations - including charities, voluntary organisations and political parties - do not make such calls to numbers registered on the TPS unless they have your consent to do so. The address is www.mpsonline.org.uk/tps

You may wish to protect your fax machine in the same way. Under government legislation introduced on 1 May 1999 it is unlawful to send an individual an unsolicited sales and marketing fax without prior permission and you can register with the Fax Preference Service at www.fpsonline.org.uk/fps

These are free services - so be wary of anyone offering to register your numbers for a fee.

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