It’s an unfortunate fact that during 2014 alone Marsh dealt with more than 120 claims arising from serious accidents involving pupils at independent schools – some of them life-changing.
Indeed, no matter how extensive the risk assessment nor how comprehensive the health and safety policy, accidents will and do happen. As a result, a sensible focus on preventing accidents should be coupled with steps to make a provision for life after an accident.
Ask yourself this: if the lifetime cost of caring for a severely disabled child is likely to exceed £1million, should a school put in place an insurance scheme to ensure these costs can be met and the child’s future secured? It’s very hard to see a valid argument against taking such a step.
First, this is due to the fact that no one wants to see a child and their family suffer financial hardship on top of a life-changing injury. But also because, quite frankly, putting in place that extra layer of financial protection is good for the school – the extra layer of care it provides is good for reputation and creates a valuable point of difference in the minds of parents, particularly those based overseas.
Richard Moxon, head of education at Marsh
What about public liability cover?
You may well argue that public liability insurance cover is there to protect the school against these incidents. However, precisely where a school’s responsibility begins and ends can be a grey area. Take a traffic accident that happens in or around the school entrance, for example. It might be difficult to say with certainty who was “in charge” at the time of the incident. In that scenario, a school (via its insurers and advisers) may successfully argue that it was not to blame and avoid liability – but is that a Pyrrhic victory, especially when you consider the hardships that are likely to ensue for the injured pupil?
In truth, a great many disabling injuries are sustained not as a result of negligence, but through sheer bad luck. In other words, the pupil has been injured as a result of a complete accident – and without personal accident insurance cover – is simply not protected at all.
In loco parentis
In the end, of course, schools have no legal obligation to insure pupils against accidents. It can be argued that independent schools are best placed to offer that comprehensive protection. They can very easily protect all their pupils via specialist personal accident insurance schemes, with premiums generally paid by parents via the school fee and amounting to less than £10 per term for a £2million maximum benefit, including dental accident cover.
When you measure those few pounds against the lifetime cost of caring for a disabled child, there is really no argument for not ensuring all your pupils are protected by personal accident insurance.
Richard Moxon is head of education with insurance brokers Marsh Ltd W: uk.marsh.com/education
About spinal cord injuries
• The frequency of spinal cord injuries is highest in younger males.
• Two thirds of spinal cord injuries are caused by sporting and road traffic accidents.
• The most common sporting accidents that result in a spinal cord injury are diving, rugby, winter sports, gymnastics, and horse riding.
• The lifetime cost of caring for a severely disabled child is likely to exceed £1million.
Spinal Injuries Association Impact record and Financial Statement 2010/11 and Spinal Injury Network W: www.spinal-injury.net