With all the mixed messages about health and safety, schools will derive some comfort from the clarity of a recent High Court decision.

The father of a child seriously injured during a school swimming lesson brought a claim for compensation against the school (through the local education authority).

The essential facts of the case were that the swimming lesson was:

The child’s father argued that the school was liable for his daughter’s injuries because they owed her a non-delegable duty of care by standing “in the place of a parent” (in loco parentis) during the swimming lesson.

The accepted legal position at the time was that the school owed a duty to “take such care of a pupil as would a reasonable careful parent.” If successful, this case would have effectively extended a school’s duty to make it also responsible for ensuring that third parties took reasonable care for pupils and rendering it liable for any default.

The court rejected the argument that the school owned a non-delegable duty of care in this instance for a number of reasons, including: