A school has been fined £30,000 after taking children on a dangerous mountain ascent without the proper equipment or a competent person in charge.
A group of thirteen boys from The Gateshead Cheder school in Gateshead had to be rescued from Helvellyn, a mountain in the Lake District.
Children were wearing school shoes and school trousers; and others were wearing trainers.
It was cold and icy on 5 March 2020 when pupils from Year 10 at the school set off with their teacher and a teaching assistant, the court heard.
The adults had no qualifications in mountain leadership or any experience of climbing in winter conditions. The party had a map but relied on a smartphone app as a compass.
Despite checking local weather reports which stressed the dangers of ascending above the snow line, the school decided the trip should go ahead. Later, two members of the public had also warned the group to turn back, but they carried on and reached the 950m summit.
However, when descending they strayed off the path and ended up on steep terrain which included vertical rock faces with drops of 20 metres in height.
One of the boys slid on ice and fell several metres sustaining minor cuts. Another pupil ‘panicked’ and ran down the mountain where they were found safe by members of the public. Meanwhile, the two adults remained with the group and it began to get dark and the temperature was dropping.
The party were eventually found and rescued by Keswick Mountain Rescue Team.
Investigating HSE inspector Stephen Garner said: “On this occasion, none of the party came to serious harm, however, the school were aware of the weather and ground conditions, but decided to proceed without the appropriate planning, equipment, or suitably trained leaders.
“Those taking part in the trek that day were placed in serious danger and there was a clear failing by the school to adopt sensible precautions to ensure their safety.
“Excursions into mountains, particularly in winter, need to be led by people with the appropriate skills, knowledge and experience. If a school does not have access to the necessary expertise in house, then licensed Adventure Activities providers are available to manage the technical aspects of this type of trekking activity.”
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