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Health & Safety: Wilshaw, Assaults, Water Hygiene

Andy Haynes, Health and Safety Officer
26th May 2012

Stress Free Zone

Sir Michael Wilshaw, the current Grand Inquisitor of Ofsted, has announced that there's no stress in teaching. So that's alright then! It will, however, come as a great surprise to the growing army of excellent teachers who have had their lives and careers wrecked by this apparently imaginary malaise.

Wilshaw went on to suggest that teachers who suffer from stress are using it as an excuse for poor performance. I would suggest that, on the contrary, only teachers who care deeply and are striving to do their absolute best are likely to suffer from stress. If you don't care, how can you be stressed?

Wilshaw has demonstrated his complete lack of understanding of the situation that many teachers find themselves in and his attitude can only add to their distress. He shows a disrespect for the profession that is unacceptable and he has made his continued employment by Ofsted untenable.

Assaults on Teachers

Figures from the HSE show that teachers are twice as likely to be assaulted at work than the average for employees in other jobs. This is clearly unacceptable.

There has often been a feeling amongst teachers that they have less protection in law than other people at work. Leicester NUT has been in contact with the police and they have assured us that this is not the case. To quote their reply: 'Both the CPS and Police agree that an offence of assault against a school member of staff acting in their professional capacity would possibly be considered as more serious (than an assault in other circumstances) and this would be raised in Court.” A representative from the local authority legal services team has said that: Legal Services would expect incidents of assault to be reported to the police and would be concerned if the police were not involved.

It is really important for teachers to report all instances of physical and verbal assaults to the authority, using the SO2 forms, and where appropriate to the police.

DFE H&S Advice to Schools

The DFE has issued revised H&S guidance to schools. Although this is more substantial than was originally anticipated, it is still greatly reduced from previous advice. The view of the LA is that in many respects it is poor and even inaccurate. All current LA policies and guidance remain in place.

Water Hygiene

It may come as a surprise, but the water supply may well be the most dangerous thing in most schools. Stagnant water in pipes and storage tanks can be a breeding ground for the legionella bacterium that can cause the potentially fatal Legionnaires' disease. For this reason the authority require schools to test their water supplies monthly, to check that all the water taps run at the correct temperature.

Occasionally schools think that it's not important to carry out these tests during the summer holiday when the water supply is not being used. This is completely wrong as the long summer break is exactly the time when legionella is most likely to reproduce and cause problems because the water does not get flushed through the system and the (hopefully!) warm weather encourages growth.

School H&S reps are entitled to check records to make sure that this has been carried out properly and are encouraged to do so.

TUC Survey

School Safety Reps are being asked to complete the 9th annual TUC survey of safety reps. This can be found at:

The TUC and its affiliated unions need this information so that they can do more to help Safety Reps and make sure that their views and experiences are better reflected in public policy debates and in the work of the Health & Safety Commission. The information will not be passed to any third party.


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