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Safety at school and your legal rights FAQ

Understandably, parents need to know that their children are safe at school but, if the worst does happen, it’s important to be aware of the support that’s available in the way of compensation or rehabilitation.

What is the legal responsibility of teachers?

The responsibility of teachers has been well established for over 120 years, with the relevant case law stating the duty of a schoolteacher is that of a “reasonably careful father” or a “parent with many children”.

If my child is injured at school, is the school held responsible?

It’s not uncommon for children to be injured as a result of boisterous play. The courts take a balanced approach with the view that “rough and tumble” is an inevitable part of growing up and it would discourage independence if children were monitored too closely by teachers. However, the key to a successful compensation claim for an injury that has been sustained at a school often centres on a lack of supervision.

A recent case involved compensation for a teenage boy who lost the tip of his finger during a school lunch break. A group of girls prevented him from entering a classroom and slammed a door shut on his hand. The claim was successfully concluded on the basis that the specific area of the school was without teacher supervision despite the knowledge that children were playing there.

What happens if my child is injured by other pupils?

If children are purposefully injured by fellow pupils, and no degree of supervision would have prevented the event, it is still possible to pursue a claim through the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

As well as specific laws governing the safety of school premises, schools owe the same general duty of care to visitors as other facilities open to the public, such as restaurants or supermarkets.

What happens if my child is injured during PE?

In regard to sports at school, it is generally felt that all participants, including children, accept some level of risk, ruling out an injury claim. If, however, it is felt that an injury arose as a result of actions one would not normally consent to, then a claim can be brought.

If my child’s claim is successful, what happens to the compensation?

Once compensation is secured, money is paid into court and released to the child once he or she reaches 18 years of age. Not only will there be compensation for the injuries, but the claim will also include financial losses, usually incurred by the parents.

It is possible to apply to the court for the money to be released early for the benefit of the child. This usually relates to educational improvement but, in the past, we have successfully applied for the court to release funds to pay for other things including driving lessons!

Furthermore, an old injury can still be claimed for if the child is under the age of 21.