Assaults on teachers see Scottish payouts reach high of £700k

Violent attacks by pupils on teachers in Scotland's schools have contributed to a massive hike in compensation settlements, with the total nearly reaching £700,000 over the past year, figures released today reveal.

Assaults on teachers make up a third of compensation payouts.
Assaults on teachers make up a third of compensation payouts.

Fourteen Scottish teachers have been paid thousands in compensation because of assault, stress or ill-health caused by their jobs in 2020 – an increase of more than 100 per cent compared to the previous year.

Assault cases make up almost a third of the total, with the biggest payout – £200,000 – going to one teacher who sustained serious injuries as a result of an attack by a pupil. In comparison, the total paid out last year for all cases was £290,000.

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The figures, revealed by the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, show that £686,716 was paid out to teaching staff for a range of workplace injuries, including accidents, assault and poor working environments.

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The second highest payout of £90,000 went to a teacher who suffered severe stress “due to a lack of support in the workplace”, while £75,000 was awarded to another teacher after an assault by a pupil “causing injury and distress”.

EIS general secretary Larry Flanagan said while the payouts represented success for the union, it was an unwelcome development to “report an increase in compensation payments received by our members … our clear preference would be to see these types of injuries eliminated entirely from our schools, colleges and universities”.

He said: “The most common cause of injuries remains ‘slips, trips and falls’. These types of incidents are entirely avoidable with correct adherence to appropriate health and safety procedures in the workplace. It is essential that the relevant employers take all possible precautions to ensure that all facilities are as safe as possible for staff and for students.

“Many teaching professionals have felt particularly vulnerable in their places over work over the past year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. All employers have a duty of care to provide a safe working environment for their employees in order to protect both their physical and mental health."

Scottish Labour education spokesperson Iain Gray said the "worrying figures" showed problems were getting “worse, not better” and the Covid pandemic had added to teachers’ stress.

He said: "Teachers and support staff make a huge contribution to Scotland, and every case of injury at work is one case too many.

"The SNP Government must work with unions, councils and schools to eliminate unsafe workplaces from our education system. That means ensuring that the financial resources are there for additional staff and safety measures. All too often schools have unrealistically been told to do more with less and staff safety has been compromised as a result."

However, a Scottish Government spokesperson said it was up to councils to “exercise their statutory responsibilities and deliver a safe environment for all school users".

The spokesperson said: “Health and safety legislation is not devolved to the Scottish Government. Where a local authority does not comply with the legislation, it is for Health and Safety Executive to determine what enforcement action is appropriate and proportional to health and safety risk and the seriousness of the breach.”

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