Education publication Tes has published an article by Elizabeth Fortin discussing the legal situation in an off-site student fight scenario. In the scenario, a school receives a call from a member of the public about a fight between two students, recognisable because of their uniforms, after the school day has ended and at some distance from the school. What is the schools duty of care position, in legal terms?

Elizabeth Fortin, Associate Solicitor in Stone King’s Education Team, explains the duty of care that schools have towards their staff when carrying out responsibilities under their terms of employment and what advice she would give in this specific incident.

She says:

“We would advise schools not to adopt responsibility for students off-site outside of school hours in this kind of ad hoc scenario, because of the risk that something might go wrong. If, for example, a student or staff member were injured or suffered trauma as a result of an event that occurred off-site, for which a staff member had assumed responsibility, then either one of them might be able to bring a claim for damages against the school. And, if this were to arise, it is not clear whether the school's insurance would cover such a claim; this would depend on the contract of insurance.”

However, she adds that this “does not mean that the school need do nothing on receipt of such a phone call from a member of the public”, and explains the advisable course of action, including in relation to potential discipline.

She concludes:

“Overall, a situation like the one outlined at the start is a tricky area for schools, and one that leaders should familiarise themselves with in terms of their duties, their behaviour policy, their insurance and government guidelines to ensure that they are clear where their responsibilities lie - and where they do not.”

To read the full article, please go to tes.com/How far off-site can teaching staff go to break up a fight