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October 19, 2020

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Council fined after teacher assaulted by pupil

Luton Borough Council has been sentenced after a teacher was assaulted by a pupil.

classroomOn 17 June 2016, the assistant head teacher at Putteridge High School was called to deal with a disruptive pupil who was refusing to go into a detention room. After clearing the classroom of the other pupils, the pupil launched a sustained assault on the teacher, using a mobile phone and inflicting life changing injuries.

The HSE’s investigation found that there were significant shortcomings in relation to the measures at the school, regarding violence and aggression posed by the pupils to others. No effective consideration was given to the risk of injury or death posed by the pupils to others and measures were not taken to reduce that threat to as low as reasonably practicable.

According to the HSE:

  • Luton Borough Council did not ensure that the school had people with sufficient competence in the management of health and safety involved in running the school to ensure that the threat was addressed;
  • The Council did not see to it that staff members at the school had the training either to remedy that shortcoming or to deal with violent and aggressive pupils in a way which did not expose them to risk;
  • The Council failed to monitor the adequacy of the measures Putteridge High School had in place and the Council therefore failed to pick up and address the shortcomings.

Luton Borough Council of Town Hall Upper George Street Luton pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and was fined £104,000 with £60,000 costs. The fine was reduced from £300,000 due to the Council’s lack of revenue as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Her Honour Judge Mensah in sentencing said: “There is no doubt in my mind that this was a properly brought prosecution. Not to have brought a prosecution in this serious case would, apart from anything else, have sent a completely wrong message to the school, its governors, the staff and pupils, other local authorities with responsibilities under the Education Acts and to the public generally.

“This was a large organisation which, to a very large extent, relied on employees conducting the day to day running of the school as it could not, and did not, have complete control over the daily functioning of the school. However, I am satisfied that the systems that were in place were inadequate and oversight by the local authority was ‘light’ – I accept that no concerns were brought to the attention of the local authority but that equally, it does not appear that the local authority invited matters to be brought to its attention.”

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Emma Page said: “In community schools, where the local authority is the employer, the local authority must monitor the arrangements its schools have in place to manage the risk from violence and aggression”.

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Tony Keetley
Tony Keetley
3 years ago

As a H & S professional of 25 years, I find this case an absolute disgrace to the profession.
Shame on the HSE who have lost the plot.

3 years ago
Reply to  Tony Keetley

Lost the plot? I am afraid I do not share the same opinion. This is considered as workplace violence and as such, there should be measures in place to reduce the risk. With this kind of scenario, you are never going to eliminate the risk but if there is a history of violence against staff, then introducing something simple like a personal panic alarm, training staff in conflict resolution and having a documented procedure for dealing with a violent pupil that does not put other staff or pupils at further risk. I would argue that this incident is reasonably foreseeable… Read more »

Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
3 years ago

Interesting as, mental health still a mystery for far too many in too many institutions too often driven by “Approval Deprivation” with little or no “Positive Regard” for the inmates whether in education, the workplace or secure estates who may already be suffering a high degree of “Performance Anxiety”, work-stress just to survive the culture. Fight, Flight or freeze is a normal survival response to either an ongoing perceived or real threat, even if the individual has been “carrying-on regardless” under stress / duress from the pressures and.or demands, especially when they feel unable to escape the stressors they experience… Read more »

Tim Griffiths
Tim Griffiths
3 years ago

Nigel, I think that an accusation of no positive regard being their normal position is insulting to the teaching profession. They have to use positive regard because of the failings of far too many parents and do so almost instinctively. Further, to quote from the report above and illustrate what a strange prosecution this was, ‘No effective consideration was given to the risk of injury or death posed by the pupils to others and measures were not taken to reduce that threat to as low as reasonably practicable’ is something that can be said about almost every organisation in the… Read more »

Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
Nigel Evelyn-Dupree
3 years ago
Reply to  Tim Griffiths

My personal comment come from learned-experience from my school days and a further 25 years working with “approval deprived” at risk school kids excluded from participating in learning simply because, they moved-up to secondary education functionally illiterate with “far from fluent reading rates”. Unfortunately, teachers, good, bad and ugly are struck having to be compliant in the “past it’s use by date” 19th Century “Industrial Education Model” that at the end of the 20th Century also closed down any practical or vocational training workshops and sold off all the equipment as well as far too many playing fields and, over… Read more »