Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Injury to staff

If a staff member is injured by a pupil, what liability does the institution have? A recent case decided that a school was not negligent but the particular circumstances of the case make this a dangerous one to lean on.

The school was a special school which took students who were inclined to be violent and so anyone applying would be well aware of the hazards. The member of staff who was injured had claimed to be experienced in working with that kind of child. Clearly these conditions would not necessarily apply in mainstream schools.

However one useful aspect of the case was the view the court took on the allegation that the school did not have appropriate policies and was unaware of a guidance document on the subject.

The court looked at what the school did do rather than what it did not. It concluded that the number of policies schools were required to have was a limiting factor on the degree of responsibility it bore. Regular discussion and support were seen to be an adequate substitute for a formal policy.

This view might not get a school past Ofsted and it cannot be guaranteed always to be adequate as a defence against negligence but it is heartening to be reminded that courts are generally more concerned about what happens on the ground rather than which pieces of paper can be found in the filing cabinet.

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