17 July, 2012
Hammersley-Gonsalves (A Child) v Redcar & Cleveland BC (13/7/12)
The Court of Appeal recently handed down its judgment in a claim whereby a pupil aged 12 had been struck by another pupil with his club and suffered facial injuries at the start of a golf lesson at school. There had been a finding of negligence against the local authority at the trial on the basis the lesson had not been adequately supervised and therefore the local authority had not met the appropriate standard of care.
The school through their teacher had organised a series of golf lessons for a class who were aged around 12. There had been 22 boys who already had completed six golf lessons indoors. For the seventh lesson, the teacher had created a golf course in the school grounds. Each boy had a club and a golf ball. The evidence from the teacher was that the boys were instructed not to use the clubs or hit anything until instructed to do so and to walk outside in single file.
When they got to the field, one of the boys put his ball down and swung his club at it, inadvertently hitting the Claimant. The teacher had been at the back of the line of boys and had not seen the incident. The local authority appealed the decision following the first instance decision.
The Appeal Court found that there was no difficulty in accepting the trial judge's finding that the teacher could not see every pupil at every moment. It was obvious that however observant the teacher was he could not be expected to see every action of 22 boys. There had been no background of bad behaviour. The actions of the boy who hit the Claimant were wholly unexpected. The teacher's failure to see the boy's actions could not amount to negligence as he could not be expected to see every action no matter where he was positioned. In the absence of an allegation regarding the staffing ratio it would be difficult to see how the claim could succeed. On the staffing ratio point, the Appeal Court found that having more teachers to observe the boys was not required given their age and the nature of the activity. In the circumstances, the appeal was allowed.
This week as Lytham St.Annes is about to welcome the golfing fraternity to the Open Championship, the Court of Appeal has delivered a very positive message to local authorities across the Country in order not to discourage them from teaching sport activities not normally associated within the school curriculum. Could it be a decision supportive of the desirable activity envisaged by s1 of the Compensation Act 2006? Furthermore, whilst not specifically pleaded or argued, the Appeal Court addressed the adequacy of staffing ratio for 12 year old boys which schools' will welcome in today's day of austerity cuts and balancing of staffing levels.
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