SCHOOLS across Lancashire have paid out £1.2million compensation over the past six years – mainly for pupils who have been involved in accidents.
So far this year claims have cost £258,000 for various slips, trips, cuts and scaldings.
Last year's figure was £360,000 compared to just £42,250 in 2006.
Figures obtained by the Lancashire Telegraph via a Freedom of Information request show a total of £279,250 was paid out for allegations of abuse and £95,802 for injuries during PE lessons.
An East Lancashire councillor said he was ’flabergasted’ at the figures and a college law tutor blamed the new ‘compensation culture’ on the rise in no win no fee agreements.
More than £8,800 was handed out when one pupil pushed another over, causing a broken arm, and a playground ice slip saw another family given nearly £7,000.
In 2008 a £22,000 settlement was reached for a broken arm, sustained while a boy was playing football. Neck and back injuries during a gymnastics lesson incurred a £4,000 penalty and £11,400 was handed out when a student slipped on PE equipment and damaged his front teeth.
Another £11,414 was forfeited when a pupil received a broken arm during a trampolining lesson and a treadmill fall prompted a £12,000 payout.
One of the largest payouts, totalling £100,000, made last year, was when a student was crushed by a falling cupboard, receiving injuries to the spine and stomach in 1998.County education chiefs have also faced a dozen cases involving allegations of physical and sexual abuse, some dating back to the 1970s.
Just this year alone the authority has reached settlements of £115,000 and £37,500, for cases from 2004 and 1991 respectively.
Last November a 40-year-old Accrington man received £54,000 following sexual abuse which he endured at the former Stonecross School in Ulverston, a special school run by the county council until its closure in 1984.
Several cases revolving around the former Blackburn House and Fylde House, near Blackpool, also run by the county, were the subject of a class action by Cheshire-based solicitors Abney Garsden McDonald.
Pendle County Coun George Adam said: “I am flabergasted that it has gone up so much. It is a big concern. It has spiralled so much in six years and this money is probably coming off the school's budget. It is money that should be spent on children and their education.
“It shows the compensation culture we live in at the moment. There are so many accident firms operating now, people are getting smarter and smarter and are encouraged to claim.”
Blackburn College law lecturer Morgan Currey said the introduction of conditional fee agreements in the UK had created a ‘compensation culture’.
He said: “With conditional fee agreements, or no win no fee, people don’t have to pay if they lose.
“This has given more people the opportunity to claim.
“Lots of businesses and solicitors have jumped on the bandwagon, encouraging people to make claims.
“This can put pressure on organisations like schools as they fear paying out unnecesarily for things that aren’t really their fault.
“It is getting more like it is in the US, which isn’t necessarily a good thing.
“The argument for conditional fee agreements is that they give people the opportunity to claim who otherwise couldn’t afford to.”
Lancashire County Council’s cabinet member for children and schools Susie Charles said: “As a county council we take bullying very seriously and we work closely with schools to help them both prevent and deal with it.
“Thankfully, incidents in which pupils are injured by other pupils are few and far between, but in a county with over 630 schools and about 190,000 school-age children, it is inevitable that there will be some incidents.
“When the county council receives a claim for compensation it has to make a decision regarding its liability, and defend or settle the case as appropriate.
“This may lead to a compensation payment being made.”
Lesley Ham, from teachers’ union NASUWT, said: “We have seen a big rise in these claims since around 2006 but unfortunately the legislation is there and we can’t do anything about it.
“Schools wouldn’t deal personally in with the claims. Like car accidents it is usually sorted between solicitors and insurance companies.
“They wouldn’t also decide on the amount that is paid out.
“It is almost as if there is a table and the amount awarded would depend on the severity of the injury.”
- £2,250 – A stack of tables fell on to the pupil’s foot, resulting in injury
- £15,000 – Pupil scalded arm on hot pipes
- £3,500 – Pupil struck in the face by a stacking trolley, resulting in chipped tooth and broken tooth
- £6,625 – Pupil sustained two broken toes when table tennis table collapsed on to their foot
- £4,000 – Pupil sustained injury to neck and back during gymnastics class
- £22,000 – Pupil fractured arm playing football indoors
- £26,500 – Pupil caught hand in drilling machine during technology lesson, resulting in dismemberment of right little finger
- £5,650 – Pupil fell on treadmill and fractured a bone in their hand
- £3,500 – Pupil broke a tooth when struck in the face by broken railing that other pupils were climbing on
- £2,750 – Pupil fell off a chair and fractured wrist
- £5,000 – Allegations of abuse
- £14,868 – Pupil injured teeth as a result of trip over floor covering
- £5,850 – Pupil caught leg in protruding nail and sustained severe laceration to the leg
- £8,650 – Pupil fell off trampoline and fractured their kneecap
- £2,500 – Pupil pricked thumb on a needle in school grounds and had to undergo a series of screening tests
- £115,000 – Allegations of abuse
- £16,500 – Allegations of abuse
- £3,000 – Pupil fractured wrist during sport
- £12,550 – Pupil slipped from a swing bar and severely injured arm
- £11,414 – Pupil sustained two fractures of the arm during a trampolining lesson