October 3, 2023

$5.5m ACC payouts for injuries to teachers

Now we have it, Schools are about “crowd control’


$5.5m ACC payouts for injuries to teachers

By JOHN HARTEVELT – The Press | Monday, 22 September 2008

Millions of dollars are being spent treating teachers hurt in the classroom.

One principal believes the payouts reflect a job more akin to crowd control than education “you don’t expect to be spat at or hit when you’re in this job that you thought was about teaching kids”.

Figures obtained by The Press detail more than $5.49m in Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) payouts to teachers in the year to June 2008.

The ACC figures show:

Teachers in the early-childhood education (ECE) sector were paid $1.54m in the year to June 2008 up from $809,281 in 2004. That figure includes $1.29m for soft-tissue injuries to teachers.Payouts to primary teachers climbed by $1m from $1.49m in 2004 to $2.48m in the year to June 2008. The cost of fractures and dislocations rose from $198,732 to $548,648.Secondary teachers bucked the trend, with payouts falling from $1.65m in 2004 to $1.48m to June 2008.Teachers in special education lodged 36 claims for being struck by a person or an animal in 2008. In 2004, there were 30 such claims costing $43,048.

The chairman of the New Zealand Foundation for Character Education, Rod Galloway, said there would be several reasons for the injuries, but assaults on teachers by students were on the rise.

Last month, The Press revealed a 37 per cent surge nationwide in disciplinary actions against primary-school students between 2000 and 2007.

Galloway, the principal of a Dunedin primary school, said the “extreme” of physical assault on primary-school teachers was now not unusual.

“I hear of it in other schools and it’s not a once-a-year occasion, it’s more frequent than that. And in some cases, they’re dealing with child after child on certain days it’s just a constant battle,” he said.

Teachers were no longer authority figures.

“You wouldn’t have expected, years ago, for teachers to be sworn at and that happens frequently,” Galloway said.

“The way to make teaching attractive for men and women is to say the job is actually teaching and not crowd control and you don’t expect to be spat at or hit when you’re in this job that you thought was about teaching kids.”

There were also mounting physical demands on teachers, causing more injuries, he said.

“There is a physical demand on teachers working with children. The modern teacher doesn’t sit at their desk that might be news to some people.”

Early Childhood Council chief executive Sue Thorne said a greater number of qualified and registered teachers would have contributed to the increase in payouts for teachers in her sector. She said ECE teachers also faced a wider range of physical demands.

“ECE teaching would be more comparable with a number of occupations in the health sector,” Thorne said.

Assaults by children on teachers also were on the rise in ECE.

“I’ve certainly heard of staff who have been left with a bruise or two from being kicked and pummelled by a cross four-and-a-half year old,” Thorne said.

“They can put a bit of weight behind it and do a bit of damage to staff.”

She said more children were coming from dysfunctional homes without good male role models.

Surveys by the Post Primary Teachers’ Association (PPTA) have shown secondary school teachers are worried by student misbehaviour with more than 40% experiencing physical intimidation or assault.

A discussion paper to be presented at next week’s PPTA conference states “gangsta-style” behaviour by students has made recruiting teachers difficult at many low-decile schools.

The paper recommends higher salary incentives for teachers who choose to work in hard-to-staff schools.