Negligence in Schools: I don’t know about you but when I was at school we were always told not to run anywhere. We were never told why, it was just accepted. I remember walking across to the school playing fields for sports, and anyone who ran was quickly dealt with by the PE teacher in an often unpleasant way. So it was with interest that I read a recent judgment from the High Court sitting in Manchester that concerned this very topic.

In Pook v Rossall School [2018] EWHC 522 (QB) the Claimant (then Appellant) was a pupil at her local school where it was accepted that the children were encouraged to run by teachers when on the way to their hockey pitch. Quite often they were chastised by teachers for dawdling. It was during such a journey that the Claimant tripped and fell, breaking her elbow. This happened when out of sight of the supervising teacher.

The claim was brought in negligence on the basis (inter alia) that the school owed the Claimant a duty of care and breached that duty by encouraging her to run – an act that directly led to the injury. The claim under the Occupier’s Liability Act was discarded in the lower court that subsequently found in favour of the Defendant.

In the Appeal, Mr Justice Martin Spencer ruled that whereas schools have an ‘enhanced’ duty towards the children in their care they had no duty to ‘reduce the risk to the lowest level reasonably practicable’. The judge also concurred with the lower court in finding that the supervising teacher had not been at fault in allowing the children to run to their sports lesson, and furthermore that effectively the Claimant may well have tripped and fallen even if she had been walking.

An interesting case that inevitably turned on its own facts but it did bring back some memories. Unusually, it seems that in this sort of scenario health and safety considerations have moved in reverse as time has passed – probably not a bad thing.

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