Teachers’ duty of careThe general law of negligence provides that a person may be negligent if
He/she owes a duty of care to the person injured and
He/she did not carry out that duty to the legal standard required and
The person suffered damage as a result of the failure to observe the duty of care.
In any given case, the actual facts must be examined closely to see if all these elements are present.
There is no doubt that teachers owe a duty of care to students. When this duty starts, where it ends and precisely what constitutes a breach of duty are not nearly so clearcut.
The following general principles apply:
Teachers must take reasonable care to ensure that their students do not meet with foreseeable injury. They have a duty to protect the children against foreseeable risks of personal injury or harm.
The standard of care is that of a reasonably prudent parent. The degree of care depends on such factors as the age of the students.
There must be an effective system of supervision in operation in the school.
The duty of care applies while the students are on the school premises during school opening hours. It may also apply if the students are present outside of official school hours, e.g., if they arrive early or leave late and the teacher/school has agreed to the students being present
The same duty of care applies if a teacher voluntarily supervises children.
Teachers are required to follow good standards and approved practice. Risky classes and activities require a greater degree of supervision. If goggles, protective clothing, etc., are supplied for certain activities, it is the teacher’s duty to ensure that they are worn