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Compensation record as teacher stress levels soar

SCOTTISH teachers are suffering record stress levels, with the proportion of successful compensation cases doubling in the past year.

New figures from the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) show stress accounted for 40% of all compensation claims dealt with by the teaching union in 2012, compared with 20% the previous year.

Overall, the union has seen the highest level of pay-outs to teachers and college lecturers on record.

Total compensation payments for all cases, including accidents and injuries, exceed £1.3 million.

The 2012 settlements also contain several personal injury claims resulting from pupils assaulting teachers.

One teacher was awarded £81,000 after being subjected to several attacks by the same pupil, with no risk assessment being carried out.

The new figures come against a backdrop of rising stress levels in the public sector.

Teachers, health and social service managers and social welfare professionals have reported the highest rates of work-related stress in the past three years.

Overall, there were 10.8 million working days lost to the problem in the UK in 2010/11. On average, each individual took 27 days off work, with an estimated 32,000 cases of work-related stress in Scotland alone during this period.

Earlier this year, the Samaritans said employers needed to do more to combat the problem.

In teaching, rising stress levels have been blamed on factors including a cut of more than 4000 in the number of school staff since 2007.

There are also concerns classroom support staff are being sacrificed as part of budget cuts, and recently there have been shortages of supply staff in schools after a controversial pay cut.

All of these issues have emerged at a time when secondary schools have complained of an increasing workload because of the roll-out of the new Curriculum for Excellence.

In the college sector, thousands of jobs have been lost due to cuts, with those lecturers who remain picking up the excess workload.

Larry Flanagan, general secretary of the EIS, said: "Every year we hope that the number of compensation cases will fall but, sadly, the evidence from 2012 is that employers still have a great deal of work to do.

"As well as representing suffering and injury to individuals, all of these claims have caused financial losses to the employer and to the public purse.

"The taxpayer is paying a heavy price for the failure by employers to protect their staff from stress and other injuries in the workplace."

However, Douglas Chapman, education spokesman for the council umbrella body Cosla, defended the practices of local authority employers.

"Councils treat health and safety of staff and pupils with the highest priority," he said.

"Schools are busy places, with often hundreds of staff and pupils present at any one time.

"Accidents can happen, but the suggestion that authorities do not take all proper precautions for staff and pupils is preposterous. When accidents do occur, all authorities have policies in place to deal with situations that can arise."

John Stodter, general secretary of the Association of Directors of Education in Scotland, said: "Health and safety at work for local government employees, including teachers, should be a priority for councils.

"By far the most frequent claims are for slips, trips and falls, which are avoidable. It is everyone's responsibility to ensure that staff and pupils in schools can work safely without exposure to avoidable risk, and good

practice happens when employers work closely with trade unions and employees in a shared commitment to improve health and safety."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: "We expect councils to take appropriate action at a local level to minimise the risk to staff through their own local health and safety procedures."

Mr Flanagan went on to condemn changes to the Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme introduced by the Westminster Government last month, which will restrict future compensation to those who suffer serious injuries.

"These changes display a callous disregard for the right of teachers and other front-line public-sector workers not to be assaulted in their workplace," he said. "It is important that victims of violent crime are given financial redress to help them get back to their feet."

Examples of awards

Teacher subjected to many violent incidents involving a child with special needs. No risk assessments carried out. AWARD: £81,000

Personal injury claim after teacher suffered back and arm injuries restraining a violent pupil. AWARD: £2,500

Violence claim after teacher suffered bites and injuries to neck in pupil attack. AWARD: £1000

Teacher slipped on water injuring knee, neck and back. AWARD: £50,000

Teacher slipped and fell suffering a double fracture of wrist and injuring hip. AWARD: £20,000

Technical teacher suffered hearing problems as a result of exposure to excessive noise. AWARD: £4500

Chemistry teacher inhaled toxic fumes from a fume cupboard and damaged respiratory tubes. AWARD: £3000

Teacher broke leg after falling off chair with no access to ladders. AWARD: £12,500

Teacher slipped and broke elbow walking across school car park in snow. AWARD: £12,500

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