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Sussex councils slammed over schools' quarter million compensation payout
Councils are forking out thousands of pounds in payouts to parents in what has been described as a “compensation culture gone mad”.
More than £250,000 has been paid to parents after their children were involved in accidents at school over the last three years, according to a Freedom of Information request submitted by The Argus.
The payouts have collectively cost East Sussex County Council, West Sussex County Council and Brighton and Hove City Council £269,232 over the three year period.
At an unnamed school in Brighton, a child was awarded £11,012 after his fingers became trapped in a classroom door while £14,053 was given after a pupil slipped on ice.
At Seaford Head Community College, £12,335 was paid out after a pupil caught his foot in a hole in the playground where a tennis pole should have been and in West Sussex, a pupil broke his ankle after falling over in the playing field, successfully claiming £2,800.
Unsuccessful claims include a case from a parent who injured their leg after falling over during a parents’ race on sports day, a child who fell over the ball when playing football and a pupil who was injured when playing rugby during PE.
The figures have been described as “compensation culture gone mad” by Dr Stewart Newton, 66, a former biology teacher at Bhasvic and former head teacher of a school in London.
Dr Newton, who was a teacher for 40 years, said: “It’s compensation culture gone mad.
“For serious injuries sustained in schools I have every sympathy. But for the stupid and frivolous ones, I’d tell parents to grow up and get a life.
“I’m disappointed. It’s called an accident – life is full of them. Don’t parents want the budget for education to be spent tutoring their children in the classroom?”
Eleanor Mc Grath, campaign manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said the figures highlighted a “serious school-yard compensation culture that had grown in recent years”.
She said: “Some claims are of course serious and legitimate, but too often a good number could have been avoided with a bit of common sense.
“Compensation claims are not just a burden on the taxpayer but also undermine children’s time in the classroom.
“Money spent on payouts for a bump and scratch means less cash for books and school equipment.”
The biggest single claim out of all three authorities was from the Priory School in Lewes, where £50,000 was paid out by East Sussex County Council’s insurers after a pupil was injured playing with branches and twigs with friends, sustaining a serious injury to his eye.
In total, East Sussex County Council paid out £150,433, West Sussex County Council paid out £64,963 and Brighton and Hove City Council paid out £53,836.
West Sussex County Councillor Peter Evans, committee member for children, said: “I don’t believe it would be an easy way to make money, we are not a cash bank that just hands out money, we look at each claim on its merits.
“A lot more people know their rights and will stand up for those rights and I would never say they are wrong for doing that but any compensation claims that weren’t correct would be spotted straight away.”
An East Sussex County Council spokesman said the authority investigated all claims made against it and only paid compensation where there was legal liability to do so.
He added: “In cases referred to such as the child struck in the eye, while the circumstances may appear innocuous, in fact the claimant sustained serious, life-changing injuries. It should be pointed out that the majority of compensation claims received by the council are repu- diated and no payment is made.”
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