Janet Vaile v Havering London Borough Council CA involved a former teacher claiming compensation against a local education authority for damages for personal injury sustained during an assault by a pupil.
The teacher worked at a special school for children with learning difficulties. One pupil, whose special educational needs stated that they suffered from developmental delay, had previously attacked the teacher by biting her and a few weeks later assaulted the teacher again by stabbing her with a pencil and violently shaking her head. The teacher suffered severe physical and psychological injuries and was not able to work again. She sued the local authority for negligence and failing to provide a safe system of work.
The judge found that the pupil was autistic or within the spectrum of the disorder, although he had never been diagnosed formally. Since the authority had failed to take account of his autism, or identify it earlier, the judge found that the local authority had been deficient in its duty to the pupil by failing to implement specialist autistic treatment and education for his benefit. However the judge pointed out that those deficiencies did not conclude that the local authority had failed to take proper care to provide the teacher with a safe system of work for teaching the pupil, finding that while the teacher had not received any specialist training to work with autistic pupils, there was no evidence that the teaching for the pupil was unacceptable or that no safe system of work had been provided for the teacher. Furthermore, even if there was any negligence on the local authority’s part, the judge held that this was not causative of the injury suffered by the teacher. The claim was therefore dismissed.
The teacher appealed and the Court of Appeal allowed the appeal, ruling that the local authority had failed in its duty to provide the teacher with a safe system of work. There should have been a system for revealing whether pupils had autism and for informing teachers of that fact. Once the local authority had appreciated that a pupil had autism, it should have ensured that those teaching that pupil were properly instructed in appropriate techniques.
The Court of Appeal also held that the judge had been wrong on the issue of causation. Whilst it might be difficult for the teacher to show precisely what the school could have done to avoid the incident in which she was injured, the failure to provide a safe system of work had persisted over a considerable time. If the teacher had been appropriately instructed in suitable techniques for dealing with autistic children and if proper care had been taken over the relevant period, the probability was that, she would not have the suffered the injury she had.
School or college compensation claims
If you have been involved in a similar situation and have sustained an injury at school or college, whether you are a teacher or a pupil, you could be entitled to make a school injury compensation claim.
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