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Teachers’ tips: How to minimise your chances of a claim

18/02/2014

Light bulb moment: teachers professional indemnity insurance

Tough lesson 

Self-employed teachers: we salute you.

Battling through blank expressions, striving for light bulb moments and inspiring understanding where previously there was none. Great feeling when it all clicks, too.

But it's a big responsibility. And sadly, that great feeling can dissipate pretty quickly if you're accused of negligence. Claims from unhappy parents (and their kids), local education authorities, schools and private clients can cast a very dark shadow.

This is why teachers need professional indemnity insurance

Worse, not only can claims come at you from almost any direction but for all sorts of reasons. It could be that your student didn't get the stellar grade they were expecting in their exam, and says it's your fault. Or a parent claims you taught their child an outdated syllabus.

In any case, you've got no choice but to defend yourself. 

A costly day in court is the last thing you need. It could put a large dent in your hard-won reputation for a start, while the associated solicitor's bills could spell seriously bad news for your bank balance. Taking pre-emptive action makes sense and could make all the difference.

Easy ways you can help yourself

We're not here to, um, teach you how to do your job. But we do have a few choice tips for minimising your chances of a claim:

  • Make sure the lesson matches the student.  It's difficult for students to progress if the work you set is either too difficult or too easy. You need to find the right pitch - or it could mean resentfulness, missed targets, and accusations you're not doing your job properly.
  • Know the syllabus inside out. Exam syllabuses change all the time, so double-check that you and your student are working to the current version.
  • Set achievable targets and realistic timescales. Targets should be challenging, but not unreachable. Agree goals with parents and students and get them signed if possible. Importantly, get to know a student's capabilities and the way they learn best beforehand. This helps to avoid disappointment – and accusations of negligence.
  • Have the right materials. Set texts and textbooks differ between exam boards and from year to year. Make sure your student has the right ones - or they may be unable to answer key exam questions.
  • Be clear on what you expect from students. For example, if hitting targets means studying an extra two hours a week at home, make sure they know that. Agree a teacher/student contract at your first session. Make sure parents understand and agree to this too.
  • Get some insurance. It means you'll be better prepared if something does go wrong and you're accused of negligence. Professional indemnity insurance for teachers pays your legal costs, including hiring a solicitor, as well as any compensation or damages you owe. It also covers things like defamation, intellectual property infringement, and loss of documents.

Public liability insurance for teachers

So, probably the last thing you want to hear at this stage is yet more about insurance. But this lesson isn't quite over yet. Because to be fully protected, as well as professional indemnity insurance, which covers your mistakes, it's also a good idea to get public liability insurance for teachers.

Public liability protects you against bodily injury and property damage claims. Say a student trips over your cat or a computer cable and injures themselves. Or you spill coffee over the state-of-the-art iMac they're using for the lesson. They're going to want compensating.

That's where public liability insurance for teachers comes into its own. It pays for your legal representation if there's a claim and also covers any compensation awarded. That means it takes care of some potentially hefty bills.

Don't forget too, that if you don't fly solo and you run a business with even one employee, it's a legal requirement to have employers' liability insurance.

Your planning shouldn't stop with your lessons. You expect your students to come prepared, and investing in insurance is simply a matter of practising what you preach. It means you're ready with all the boxes ticked should there ever be a claim against you.

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