£27m compensation payouts for teachers blamed on 'disregard by employers'

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Compensation payouts to teachers have soared during the past 12 months amid accusations the Government has given "little incentive" to employers to improve the working environment.

Teachers were awarded tens of millions of pounds in compensation last year after facing attacks from pupils, injuries and discrimination in the workplace, latest figures show.

Five-figure sums were brokered for those on the end of the worst treatment, with one 44-year-old member of teaching staff receiving more than £98,000 relating to "serious psychological injuries" after an assault by a pupil.

The woman, who was headbutted on the nose by the unruly student at a school in the North East of England, was so traumatised by the experience, she quit the profession.

The NASUWT teaching union said it secured £27.7 million from teachers' employers for its members during the past 12 months.

This was a 72% increase on £16.1 million in compensation won for its members in 2015, up from £19.8 million and £20.7 million in 2014 and 2013, respectively.

Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said: "If employers took the welfare of staff seriously and followed good employment and health and safety practices, these cases would never have to be taken and members would have been spared the stress and anxiety of pursuing legal claims.

"Behind every one of these cases are teachers who have had their careers, lives and health blighted in the course of simply trying to do their job and improve the lives of children and young people.

"Unfortunately, the Government has given little incentive to employers to improve working conditions and working practices following cuts to health and safety inspections and the callous undermining of equalities legislation."

Analysis of English council spending on local services from 2010/11 to 2014/15 showed a 25% drop on health and safety expenditure.

Asked why there had been such a surge in compensation payouts, the union boss said: "This is down to the levels of disregard by employers in terms of their responsibilities and obligations to the workforce.

"The lack of both appropriate inspection, accountability and enforcement, which is a role traditionally played by local authorities, is forcing many of our members to have to seek redress, including through the courts.

"This is symptomatic of a system where some employers feel they can disregard the rights of the workforce, to discriminate, to fail to meet their health and safety obligations and to harass and victimise teachers with impunity.

"Our compensation figures indicate that as a union, we are not prepared to allow our members to suffer at the hands of unscrupulous employers."

There were also examples of teachers receiving smaller payouts due to accidents in the workplace.

The union secured £10,100 for a 57-year-old member in the North East who worked as a teacher at a youth offender institution after the teacher unwittingly inhaling dangerous fumes from a chemical-based product used to soak up spilled blood.

The union also secured victories for two teachers who were both discriminated against as a result of working part-time.

Separate data from the NUT, which does not publish an overall compensation figure, shows similar tales of violence in the classroom.

One teacher was given nearly £48,000 in compensation after being subjected to a "prolonged assault" by a female pupil at an academy in the North West of England who "flew into a rage" after being told to stop chewing gum.

The NUT, which holds its annual conference in Cardiff over the Easter weekend, said another teacher in the South East suffered occupational stress as a result of "a sustained period of harassment and bullying", which saw the woman quit the profession with a "significant and debilitating psychiatric injury". She was awarded £125,000.