The defendant’s school provided accommodation for children with learning disabilities and with challenging behaviour. The claimant was supervising a 15 year old who was known to have volatile behaviour and also to have a propensity to mess around with electrical equipment, which could lead to danger to others.
There had been 17 reports of aggressive, unpredictable or violent behaviour by him prior to the date of injury.
On this occasion he was in a hospital outside the school because he had had a serious knee injury.
The claimant and witnesses gave evidence that it was normal practice for two members of staff to accompany a child to hospital. On this occasion, because of short staffing, she was supervising him on her own. She was in his room when he started to act in an aggressive manner. She tried to calm him down but he continued to behave violently and attacked her.
We alleged there should have been two staff at hospital.
The defendant said the policy of two staff was not for health and safety purposes. It was so that the child would have a familiar face around at all times and so that one member of staff could take a break and leave the other to look after the child.
They also said that the claimant should have left the room when the boy became agitated, in accordance with her Strategic Crisis ( SCIP) training.
The Judge found the explanation that there should be two supervisors at all times for a “familiar face”, was unconvincing. The Judge said the defendant had commendable standards and systems for adequate supervision control within the school but this begged the question why those standards were so deficient as soon as they left the school.
He found it was a matter of fact that there needed to be two supervisors for there to be a safe system of care for the health and safety of staff with this boy. But the number of people looking after him just depended on the luck factor of who felt like volunteering for overtime. If no one felt like volunteering there could very well be a lone supervisor who had no backup or even as happened once no one at all who turned up at hospital leaving unhappy and untrained hospital staff to do their best.
The claimant had done her best to distract the boy when he became violent and it was reasonable for her to stay in the room especially given his habit of tampering with electrical equipment. The whole essence of her training was dependent on help from others while she tried to calm the situation: they were not for staff left on their own,
The Judge found as a standard of care that there should have been two qualified supervisors in the hospital and that it was probable the incident would then not have occurred in the way it did and the claimant would not have been assaulted.
It was true that the defendant may have experienced difficulties in rearranging its limited staff resources but there was no evidence that it would not have been reasonably possible for them to devise a system for two supervisors to always attend the child in hospital. It had not happened because no one thought it necessary to think about it . There was no evidence that it could not happen.
The evidence of a risk assessment and guidelines for the school for what happened when a pupil was outside the premises and the reliance of volunteers was causative of a “hit and miss” system, which had directly contributed to the injuries.
Judgment for the claimant.
Mold County Court, 30 March 2010.