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Friday, 8 March, 2002, 18:55 GMT
Fresh school safety review pledged
Keith Burton (left) and head teacher Peter Roberts
Keith Burton (left) promised a full inquiry
National issues of safety on school trips have been raised by the inquest into two girls swept to their deaths on a "river walk", a senior education official has said.

Keith Burton, the chief education officer for Leeds in West Yorkshire, said they had already reviewed their safety guidelines once since the tragedy and would be doing so again.

The safety of pupils is the paramount concern

Keith Burton
Leeds council
The Department for Education said a new package of safety guidance for schools was being drawn up with local education authorities and teacher unions.

Earlier on Friday an inquest jury at Harrogate Magistrates Court returned verdicts of accidental death on Rochelle Cauvet, 14, and 13-year-old Hannah Black.

Speaking shortly afterwards on behalf of Royds School in Oulton, near Leeds, and the local education authority, Mr Burton said "our hearts have gone out" to the families of the two girls.

"Two lives have been lost in the most tragic of circumstances," he said on the steps of the court.

"The two girls died on the threshold of young adulthood, for which the challenges of outdoor pursuits and team building activities are accepted to be valuable preparation.

"Nevertheless, this inquest has shown that there are national and local issues that should be and must be addressed."

No forgiveness

The families of the two girls have put the blame for their deaths firmly on the organisers of the trip.

In a statement after the verdicts, they said "anyone with any common sense at all would never have gone near the river", adding: "We will never forgive those responsible".

Mr Burton said the position of the two teachers who accompanied the trip - Andy Miller, 48, and Liz Schofield, 28 - would now be reviewed by the school governors and the local education authority.

Andy Miller
Andy Miller: One of the teachers involved
The school and authority had already "learned a lot" in 18 months of investigation and questioning since the tragedy, Mr Burton went on.

Guidelines for the conduct of school field trips and outdoor pursuits had already undergone a major re-write but another review would now begin.

That would take into account the evidence of expert witnesses called at the inquest, he said.

Mr Burton said a "rigorous" council inquiry into the tragedy would also be carried out, informed by the remarks of the coroner.

The Cauvet and Black families have been invited to participate in the inquiry, as has the Health and Safety Executive.

It is important that parents, pupils and teachers feel that school trips are safe

Department for Education spokesperson
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said they were "urgently" seeking a transcript of the coroner's decisions, and would then consider what further action to take.

"School trips are important for pupil development and they should continue. However they must happen safely and securely," the spokesperson said.

"We issued supplementary guidance at the end of last year, and are now working with local education authorities and teacher unions on a new package of safety guidance."

The second-biggest teaching union, the NASUWT, advises its members not to go on school trips because of safety risks.

General secretary Nigel de Gruchy said the inquest showed the levels of scrutiny teachers face when involved in an accident on a school trip.

No amount of guidance could prevent tragedies, he added.

Click here to go to Leeds
See also:

02 Aug 01 | Education
Call for new school trip guidelines
04 Jul 01 | Education
Teachers' tight guidelines for trips
17 Sep 01 | Education
New guidance for school trips
26 Jul 01 | Education
Teachers advised to boycott trips
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