A London teacher has been awarded £850,000 in compensation after being punched in the face and kicked during a science lesson by a pupil with a history of violence towards other children and teachers.
The attack was so severe it left him with severe psychological trauma that resulted in him being sectioned twice under the Mental Health Act for his own safety, according to his trade union, the NASUWT.
He has been unable to return to the classroom since and medical experts say he is unlikely to work as a teacher again, hence the size of the settlement which is thought to be a record in a case of this kind. The teacher worked for an academy chain whose insurers will foot the bill.
The incident happened in January 2017 while the teacher was taking a science class at an unidentified academy in the capital. “Following a previous incident, the pupil was suspended for three days and I was reassured that they would no longer take part in my classes,” the teacher said in an account of the attack published on the NASUWT website.
However, when the pupil was back at school, he turned up in class. “When I saw him at the beginning of class, I made the point that he shouldn’t be there and asked him to leave and he walked out and shut the door,” said the teacher, who asked not to be identified.
“I then had my back to the door and hadn’t realised that he’d come back into the room. The rest is a bit of a blur as he attacked me again. The worst thing is that the school knew this pupil was a danger. It wasn’t the first time he had been violent – he had been violent to both other children and teachers.”
The teacher suffered physical and psychological injuries as a result of the career-ending attack, including a head injury, tinnitus, hearing loss, bruising, back and ankle injuries, as well as PTSD and severe depressive disorder.
The £850,000 personal injury award was part of £15m compensation the NASUWT secured for its members last year in a range of cases including unfair dismissal, discrimination, bullying, trade union-related detriment and health and safety.
Details of the case and the settlement reached were unveiled on Thursday on the eve of the NASUWT national conference in Birmingham over the Easter weekend.
In a separate case, a drama teacher from Wales was awarded almost £80,000 after being dismissed from her job since developing life-threatening asthma following the refurbishment of her classroom in 2013. There were a number of problems following the refurbishment, with mould on the classroom walls and a crack in the floor.
The teacher began to suffer from persistent headaches, rhinitis, coughing and wheezing while teaching and eventually had an asthma attack at school and was taken by ambulance to hospital where she was diagnosed with late-onset asthma, likely to have been caused by her working conditions. The NASUWT succeeded in bringing claims for unfair dismissal and disability discrimination.
Dr Patrick Roach, NASUWT general secretary, said: “While compensation is recognition of the personal and, in some cases, financial loss that members have suffered, it can never make up for the impact which unfair treatment, discrimination and physical injuries have on individuals.
“The money awarded cannot compensate for the emotional, physical and mental distress members have experienced and the fact that, for some, their experiences have left them unable to continue working in teaching.”
He said these cases were likely to be the tip of the iceberg. “There is no doubt that many other teachers will have been driven out of the profession without proper redress for poor, discriminatory or unfair treatment because they were too fearful to come forward or believed nothing could be done.”