8 March, 2019

Teacher and assistant fail in action following injuries caused by pupils at complex needs primary school


The pursuers were, respectively, a pupil support worker and a class teacher employed by the defenders at an additional support needs primary school. They were assigned to a primary 6 class of pupils. There were initially four pupils in the class all of whom frequently exhibited challenging behaviour, including spitting, scratching and biting. There were four members of staff assigned to the class (the pursuers and two other support workers). The pursuers reported repeated incidents involving the pupils (particularly hair pulling, scratching and spitting).  Ultimately both pursuers were injured in incidents involving pupils, and they raised proceedings. SE raised one action and DL raised two actions. The actions were not formally conjoined, but all three actions were heard at a two-week proof diet.

The pursuers argued that the defenders had not provided a safe system of work, and in particular that the school risk assessments paid insufficient regard to transitions of pupils to and from the classroom. They also argued that the staff: pupil ratio was inadequately low. The defenders contended that the system was a reasonable one, and that challenging behaviour by the pupils and consequent risk to staff could never be eliminated.

Sheriff Fife held that the pursuers had failed to prove breach of duty or causation. The issue of transitions had been assessed in the risk assessments, and it could not be said that it had been assessed in an unreasonable way. The head teacher and deputy head had made decisions about staffing levels and it could not be said that the staff: pupil ratios were unreasonable.

James McConnell of Ampersand acted for the defenders. The full decision can be found here.

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