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Calls for tougher rules after school trip death

Local authority-run outdoor activity centres have defended their safety record following the death of a 13-year-old boy on a school trip to a North Yorkshire beauty spot last week.

Richard Barber was among a party of 30 children from Ladderbanks middle school, Baildon, West Yorkshire who were staying at Buckden House, an outdoor education centre in the Yorkshire Dales owned by Bradford Metropolitan Council. A group of 10 children, accompanied by a teacher and an activity leader were at an abseiling site when they noticed Richard was missing. After a search, his body was found in a waterfall pool. Police and Health and Safety Executive officers are investigating.

Under the the Activity Centres (Young Persons Safety) Act, commercially-run enterprises have to register with Government- appointed independent inspection company, Tourism Quality Services, before August 1. LEA-owned centres like Buckden House will be subject to inspection. The British Safety Council wants the requirements extended to centres run by voluntary organisations which have a worse safety record - 14 under-18-year-olds have died since the early 1970s compared with 10 at commercially-run operations.

BSC director-general James Tye said: "We must look again at the rules covering schools and other voluntary groups. The British Safety Council wants anyone running outdoor activity centres to be licensed and everyone involved in them properly trained."

Phil Simpson, chairman of the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres, the main representative body for around 100 LEA run centres, said that their safety record was exemplary. "They all have the appropriate safety systems in place. Eventually we have to acknowledge that accidents do happen. "

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