Enhance duty of care and practicability

The recent case of Pook –v- Rossal is interesting, as it required the High Court to consider a school’s duty of care to its pupils. 
 
A pupil ran from the school’s changing rooms to the school field for a physical education lesson. Despite there being a footpath, the pupil took a route across a muddy area, fell and sustained a significant injury to her elbow. The High Court had to consider whether the educational institution had failed to protect the pupil because, at the time of the incident, there were no staff members around and the pupil had been encouraged to run to the field.  
 
The High Court’s view was that whilst schools have a significant duty to pupils in their care, this has to be balanced against the fact that a school does not have to bring a risk down to the lowest level reasonably practicable. The High Court held that courts should be slow to judge teachers as negligent, especially when it is not inherently dangerous for children to run to sports lessons, as long as they are careful. The teacher in this case demonstrated herself to be a caring and thoughtful teacher who had been responsible for an “impressive” risk assessment which showed that she was well aware of her duty of care. This case highlights the difference between where it is never reasonable to allow a pupil to run, for example, in the classroom, and where it is reasonable.  
 
If you would like to discuss this topic further, please contact our Education expert Thomas Emmett on 01245 453847 or alternatively you can email thomas.emmett@birkettlong.co.uk.
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