The UK’s largest teaching union is urging greater awareness of health and safety after a teacher suffered a serious accident in a school corridor.

The 37-year-old NASUWT member permanently damaged her spine after she fell while trying to navigate a corridor being used as a temporary classroom at a school in Hartlepool.

The primary school teacher was attempting to get back to her classroom but the corridor was blocked by up to 18 reception children being taught on the floor.

The children were part of two reception classes. It was normal practice for them to be split into three groups, two based in the classroom and the third in the corridor since there were no other classrooms available.

With no alternative route back to her classroom the teacher of 15 years had to walk carefully through the children. As she did so her foot caught on a dolls house which was being stored in the corridor and she fell heavily on her hip.

Diagnosed with whiplash after accident

Initially she was unable to feel her legs and was diagnosed with severe whiplash at hospital. She was able to return to work with strong painkillers six weeks after the accident.

A year after the accident she began to experience numbness in her hands and arms. She was diagnosed with four damaged vertebrate in her upper back, a damaged collar bone and ribs. 

Now, almost four years later her spine is out of alignment and she must take strong painkillers regularly. She has been told her back will never fully recover.

She has been able to continue to work, but can no longer lift heavy objects, stoop or bend. She is unable to do DIY, housework or gardening. 

She said: “It was normal practice for the corridor to be used as a spare classroom and storage space. Staff had complained about the lack of space on several occasions and the standard answer was that a new building would be ready soon.

“I’ve had to learn to cope with my back injury. It means I’m on a daily dose of painkillers and I’ve had to adjust my way of living. There are many things I just cannot do any more.”

Thompsons made claim for compensation

Following the accident she contacted her union the NASWUT which instructed Thompsons Solicitors. Thompsons argued the children should not have been taught in the corridor and equipment should have been stored in a safer place. 

Hartlepool Borough Council admitted liability and settled the claim out of court for £12,000.

The school has since built a new classroom, which had been planned before the accident.

Chris Keates from the NASUWT said:

“Staff should not have to ‘make do’ and teach in corridors, nor should equipment block people getting safely to and from their place of work.”

Schools have a difficult challenge to work within the constraints of their buildings but even temporary solutions to pressure on rooms have to be safe and sensible.”

Diane Davison from Thompsons Solicitors added: “This was an accident waiting to happen. The children were being taught in a busy thoroughfare which was also effectively being used as a storeroom for toys and equipment.