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Last Updated: Friday, 2 July, 2004, 09:42 GMT 10:42 UK
School sorry for mountain blunder
Picture by Peter Jolly
The teacher and pupils got lost in the Cairngorms
A London school has apologised after a group of teenage girls wearing uniforms, trainers and bin liners had to be rescued from a Highland mountain.

The Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team believe the teacher's actions put the lives of the 39 young girls at risk.

The group lost their bearings in the mist after reaching the top of Meall a' Bhuachaille on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the Beth Jacobs Seminary for Girls said they would be holding an immediate internal inquiry.

The alarm was raised when the 16 and 17-year-olds and their female leader reached the top of the 2,500ft hill, in the Cairngorm mountains near Aviemore.

Rescue leader John Allen said he had never seen such a poorly-equipped party.

They were very cold and when the mist came down they became very, very frightened and had it been wet at all the situation could have been a lot worse
John Allen
Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team
Mr Allen told BBC Radio's Good Morning Scotland programme: "Certainly they had a big fright when they were up on the high tops.

"They were totally inadequately prepared, with the lack of waterproofs, and the mountain rescue team members were appalled at the condition of their clothing.

"They were very cold and when the mist came down they became very, very frightened and had it been wet at all the situation could have been a lot worse."

The group reached the top of the mountain at about 1700 BST but were forced to call the emergency services when the weather worsened.

Mr Allen said he was unable to talk them off the mountain and after problems with maintaining mobile telephone signals, 10 rescuers were sent onto the hill to locate the party.

John Allen - copyright Peter Jolly
John Allen said the group was ill-prepared
Mr Allen said: "We were appalled to discover they were all wearing skirts and trainers. Some had bin liners and plastic sheets wrapped round them to act as waterproofs.

"They had no idea what they were doing or what they were expected to be doing. When we reached them the pupils were less than polite."

He added: "It is one of the worst, if not the worst, cases that I have come across of a group being ill-prepared going on to the mountains."

Mr Allen described a ratio of one teacher to 39 pupils as "completely unmanageable".

On this occasion our normal procedures governing school trips were not in place
Rabbi Benyomin Dunner
Beth Jacob Seminary for Girls
Meall a' Bhuachaille was hit by snow only last week.

Rabbi Benyomin Dunner, head of the Beth Jacob Seminary for Girls, said the incident had been a "difficult time".

Rabbi Dunner said: "On this occasion our normal procedures governing school trips were not in place.

"We apologise to parents and pupils and will be holding an immediate internal enquiry.

HAVE YOUR SAY
The staff must be qualified to undertake these activities, or a professional should accompany them
Keith, Sunderland, UK

"We are grateful to the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team for their help, it was they who ensured that nothing serious occurred.

"Beth Jacob is mindful of its responsibilities and all procedures governing school trips will be thoroughly overhauled mindful of this unfortunate incident."

A small number of the group suffering from extreme tiredness were taken by Land Rover to Glenmore Lodge, where they were later joined by the remaining members who walked off the hill.

None required medical treatment and they were on their way back to London on Thursday.


WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Gareth Furby
"Neither pupils nor teachers were willing to talk today"



SEE ALSO:
College criticised in trip probe
29 Apr 04  |  Tyne/Wear
Moves to protect school trip staff
14 Apr 04  |  Education


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