Attacked, injured teachers paid $28m in eight months
Attacked, injured and mentally distressed Queensland teachers and principals have been awarded more than $28 million in payouts in just eight months, with the union calling for school staff to be given the same "zero tolerance" protections as frontline workers.
WorkCover claims for Department of Education staff continue to climb, with 2347 physical injury claims costing $22,670,981 and 256 psychological claims costing $5,417,095 paid out between July 2020 and February 2021.
Queensland Teachers' Union president Cresta Richardson said staff had long underreported the true scope of physical and psychological stress in schools, and the union had "been encouraging them to speak out".
"The Department has a policy of zero tolerance of occupational violence - they need to apply it," she said.
"Teachers and school leaders are frontline workers, and it's time that they are provided the same protection of other essential workers like paramedics, nurses and police.
"As our members speak out about their safety these statistics will continue to rise.
"Like every single working Queenslander, they should feel safe at work - they should not go to work being fearful that they will be assaulted or abused."
Education Minister Grace Grace said while the number of WorkCover claims had grown, so had the workforce.
"While any injury is a concern, these claims range from minor sprains and strains to more significant injuries - and we encourage our people to report workplace injuries," she said.
But LNP education spokesman Christian Rowan said the increasing rates of psychological and physical injuries amongst teachers and staff in Queensland's state schools was "deeply concerning".
"The Department of Education's WorkCover statistical data illustrates that the Palaszczuk State Labor Government is facing a significant challenge to ensure the safety and wellbeing of Queensland's dedicated and hardworking principals and teachers," he said.
"Whilst COVID-19 has placed significant stress and strain on the mental health of school and teaching staff, the increasing rate of physical attacks on state school teachers has skyrocketed over the last five years.
"There must be a zero tolerance to violence, bullying, and intimidation, in our schools, and the Labor Government must develop and implement a comprehensive and sustainable strategy to deal with this issue."
A spokesman for the Department of Education said it was committed to the health, safety and well-being of its employees.
"The department has a number of processes to assist injured employees including access to workers compensation on occasion where employees sustain work-related injuries," he said.
"While every situation that involves a WorkCover claim is certainly a concern, it is worth noting that only a very small proportion of claims are made each year.
"School workplaces are also supported through local workplace health and safety committees, health and safety advisors, rehabilitation and return to work coordinators and additional regional support."
Originally published as $28 million payouts for teachers