£570k compensation paid out to NI schoolchildren

Schoolchildren Claims from schoolchildren are a 'nightmare' for schools

More than £570,000 has been paid out in compensation claims to schoolchildren in Northern Ireland since 2008, new figures have revealed.

Documents from NI's education and library boards show that in one case a six-year-old boy received £70,000 after a door was closed on his thumb.

In another incident a 14-year-old was paid £62,500 when he was hurt while climbing to retrieve a football.

The figures were released to the Belfast Telegraph.

In total £578,120 was paid out by education boards between 2008-2011. The Southern Education and Library Board had the biggest bill at £245,059 for 12 claims, while the North Eastern Education and Library Board spent £129,250 on compensating injured pupils.

Teachers' unions have blamed TV advertisements for creating a "compensation culture" in Northern Ireland.

Seamus Searson of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) said the claims were an "administrative nightmare" for schools.

He said he believed just 2% of claims were justified.

"When we were all youngsters we all got knocks and bangs everywhere and we didn't go out and sue everybody," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"Accidents happened and unfortunately in the society we live in people claim for damages."

Mr Searson said boards had been forced to settle many claims out of court to avoid huge legal bills.

Mervyn Storey, the chairman of the assembly's education committee, said although some claims may have been genuine, many were not.

Compensation paid by education boards from 2008-2011

SELB - £245,059.84

SEELB - £107,000

WELB - £31,534.50

BELB - £65,276.05

NEELB and BELB - £129,250

TOTAL - £578,120.39

"This is another bill that the education and library boards have to find," he added. "There needs to be an understanding that the people who are ultimately paying for that are ourselves and the school community.

"Clearly I think there is a problem in terms of the claim culture that we have. That is not to say there are not circumstances that the parent may feel there is a genuine grievance and that needs to be addressed."

In a statement the SELB, which paid out more than half of the total claims, said there was "no clear pattern from year to year as regards the level or type of claim".

"The board is mindful of the public purse and continually monitors its policies and procedures with a view to minimising payments. It only makes payments on receipt of legal advice," it added.

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