Summary – Injuries at school
including those sustained as part of sporting activities have the
potential to but do not always attract liability and
Children often participate in school sport activities as part of
the curriculum, during study breaks or as elective activities.
However, the adolescent body of a school student is not fully
developed and with participants of varying age, skill, knowledge
and respect for the rules, the risk of injury is ever present.
The NSW Sporting Injuries Committee compiled data for the
Sydney Morning Herald indicating hospital emergency treatment
of sporting injuries has doubled since 2002 and deaths do
occasionally result, two in the last financial year relating to
rugby union and futsal (indoor soccer).
Another statistic on the rise is litigated claims arising from
sport injuries sustained at school activities, but do the different
parties to sporting activities understand the relevant risks and
Parents should understand the limit of
supervision in the prevention of injuries just as children
sometimes sustain injuries while in the care of their parents. When
a child is injured at school, however, parents may wrongly perceive
a much higher absolute obligation on a school to protect a child
from all injury. Parents should also be aware that they may have
obligations to inform a school about any pre-disposition to injury
that their child may have including a heart condition, bone density
deficiency or prior injury.
Students should understand there are risks
associated with all activities including sport. Physical contact is
common in rugby and soccer, environmental conditions are relevant
in surfing and skiing, and in the simplest form running can
increase the chance and severity of stress, strain or fall
injuries. Students have an obligation to take steps for their own
care and comply with instructions, however that obligation is
unlikely to apply to the full extent as it might in relation to an
Teachers should understand that while
responsibility and liability will not automatically follow from all
injuries to students, the duty of care to a student cannot be
easily reduced, cannot be delegated and in certain circumstances
may be increased. The duties of teachers will also be under heavy
scrutiny when potential claimants look back from what might be an
unlikely but severe injury event and are looking to make a
Educational institutions are not insurance companies and do not
guarantee injury prevention or compensation. The relationship
between teacher and student does however come with obligations and
duties and proactive steps should continue to be taken to ensure
those obligations and duties are fulfilled and students are
protected from harm to the fullest reasonable extent.
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