Teaching is Hazardous to health - £150k compensation




Teacher who lost her voice trying to make herself heard in a noisy classroom wins £150,000 payout

Joyce Walters, 50, had to give up her vocation after developing vocal cord nodules she blamed on large class sizes and being too close to the playground.

[Can this really be true? I'm not sure I'm ready for the world I'm living in]

summertime I tell you, you restore my faith.

summertime wrote:
afterwards some of my class were heard in the playground telling everyone that i could actually shout. ages after they would still say to me "Mrs S, can you remember when you shouted!" lol

PMSL - Mr Adams shouted at Oriol in our Latin lesson once, I remember it as if it were yesterday, and I suspect she does as well.

The best teachers seem to get quieter and quieter, and the class slowly realises that something is wrong, and gets quieter accordingly. I have tried this strategy with P, and sometimes i end up almost whispering at her, but its much more effective than shouting!

You can have a very well behaved class in a classroom with bad accoustics and still have to raise your voice to be heard above the scraping of chairs and desks and all the echoy sounds in the room plus any noise pollution that's coming in from outside. Those "huts" that are supposed to be temporary classrooms but end up being permanent fixtures are really bad for this kind of thing. what schools should do is take measures to improve the accoustics, like changing the flooring, having classrooms with proper walls and double glazed windows, and also giving the teachers voice training so that when they raise their voices they are not damaging them. These days this is taught during teacher training. There's a huge difference between using your diaphragm properly like a sergeant major, so you can really bellow without straining your vocal chords, and someone who is only using the top part of their lungs (shoulder breathing) and trying to raise their voice and seriously straining their vocal chords while not actually shouting that loudly. (not that I agree with yelling at kids, just that with proper voice training you can really bellow without damaging your voice, although PE teachers have to shout loudly sometimes to be heard at the other end of the school field for example, but they should also have a whistle)

Even if it is the case that a teacher is constantly yelling at the kids, the school should step in and give support, plus have her train in more effective classroom management strategies, shouting at kids really doesn't work, all it does is give you laryngitis. There are so many techniques to use that don't require shouting loudly, and teachers have to learn on the job and do ongoing professional development so it beats me why a teacher wouldn't be offered extra training on classroom management techniques if they were constantly shouting and taking lots of sick leave with laryngitis.

whatever way you look at it, there are a lot of things that schools can do to prevent any teacher having to shout constantly and ruin their voice, so that's probably why a teacher who spent many years doing that while the school did nothing would be able to claim compensation. Also, I suspect that this was an ongoing problem for years, nodules don't suddenly appear, people with them will have had hoarse and croaky voices for a long time before and continuing to abuse the vocal chords is the worst thing you can do. So if a head teacher noticed one staff member's voice becoming particuarly hoarse it should have rung alarm bells. managers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees, whatever their job. This is no different to any other health and safety issue at work.

maybe this case will open the floodgates for more, but it will also make head teachers sit up and take notice if staff members are calling in sick with laryngitis, so they can offer training in correct vocal techniques and more importantly proper classroom management techniques AND take steps to improve the accoustics in their classrooms - which will lead to less stress and sick days for teachers AND better teaching for kids.

surely though there is an onus on the staff member (the teacher) to monitor their own health, learn what is affecting it (which she was quick enough to do to get compensation!) and take steps accordingly.

I can't see how it becomes 'the council's' fault regardless, she should have said sooner 'I am too near the playground, there is so much noise I can't teach at break time, I am going to move my classes break to the same time so that we aren't affected'. Something like that. Something that gives HER some responsibility too.

Legally though, an employer has the duty to look after the health and safety of their staff. You don't know, from the article, whether and how often she complained about the classroom being too near the playground, and not every employee in any profession knows/understands all the risks associated with their work, which is why provision for health and safety is the employer's responsibility. It's the employee's responsibility to comply with all health and safety regulations and the employer's to monitor staff to check that they are complying, but in the case where the employer has provided adequate health and safety measures but the employee hasn't followed the rules, then the employee won't be entitled to compensation. That's the same for every profession, teaching is no exception. Any kind of employee *should* take responsibility for their health and safety but they can't be expected to know all the risks. So even if this teacher didn't know she was damaging her voice by shouting all the time, it's still the employer's responsibility unless she was actually ignoring health and safety rules and advice.