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Kearn-Price v Kent County Council, Court of Appeal

6 November 2002
The issues

School – playground injuries – children

The facts

The Claimant was a pupil at the Defendant’s school. The school day began at 8.45 am. Pupils were expected to be at school by 8.40 am. Many arrived at 8.30 am.

There were 5-a-side football posts in the lower playground. In March 1998 a boy was hit on the face by a leather football. As a result, a ban was issued on the use of full-size leather footballs in the playground. Between May and June 1998 there had been 7 accidents involving children being hit on the head or face by footballs although no evidence existed as to the size of the balls used.

At the time of the accident to the Claimant, there were no teachers patrolling the playground. The Court found that few steps had been taken to enforce the earlier ban apart from occasional reminders.

The Defendant argued, relying on Ward -v- Hertfordshire County Council that there was no duty to supervise in the pre-school period.

The Recorder found for the Claimant. The Defendant appealed.

The decision

1. Although Lord Justice Denning appeared to state that there was no duty to supervise, in Ward, neither of the other two Lord Justices sitting with him found for the Defendant on that basis. Ward was not therefore authority for the view that a school owed no duty of care towards children in the playground before school hours. As Lord Justice Dyson put in this case “a school owes to all pupils who are lawfully on its premises a general duty to take such measures to care for their health and safety as are reasonable in the circumstances. It is neither just nor reasonable to say that a school owes no duty of care at all to pupils who are at school before or after school hours”.

2. The real issue was the extent of the duty owed. The Judge had reasonably found that that duty included a duty to enforce the ban on full size leather footballs and to carry out spot checks pre-school.

Appeal dismissed.

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