Safe system of work for teachers

March 15th, 2011 by James Goudie KC

In Vaile v Havering LBC [2011] EWCA Civ 246 the Court of Appeal found the local education authority liable for injuries suffered by a teacher when she was assaulted by a pupil at a special school for children with learning difficulties.  By failing to identify the pupil as suffering from autistic spectrum disorder and by failing to make appropriate educational provision for him the authority had failed to provide a safe system of work for the teacher.  That failure was causative of the injuries she suffered.  The incident was not an isolated one; and there had been no adequate response to an earlier incident.  Longmore LJ said (para 23) that there should have been a system for revealing whether pupils at the school had ASD and for informing the teachers of that fact; that (para 24) once the authority appreciated that a pupil was ASD they should have ensured that those teaching that pupil were properly instructed in appropriate techniques; that (para 30) the failure to provide a safe system of work persisted over a considerable period of time; and that (para 32) although it might be difficult for the teacher to show precisely what she or the school could have done to avoid the incident if she had been appropriately instructed in suitable techniques for dealing with ASD children, the probability is that, if proper care had been taken over that period she would not have met the injury she did.

James Goudie QC


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