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Fifty-year record is based on safety first

The Lyme Bay canoeing tragedy has meant wide-ranging changes to the law on activity centres.

The Outward Bound Trust was set up by Kurt Hahn, the man who founded Gordonstoun School, another institution famous for its character-building ethos. A registered charity, it is one of the largest providers of outdoor activities in the UK, catering for all ages, including some 15,000 schoolchildren each year.

The organisation's publicity glows with the testimony of adventure-seekers past and present, but behind the feelgood sales pitch there's a much more serious message. It's there in the second paragraph of the brochure - safety. Outward Bound recruits instructors on practical skills and leadership qualities. "They will ensure your emotional and physical safety through our exacting safety standards," it promises.

William Ripley, one of the trust's senior officials, says the new legislation has not meant altered procedures.

"Our working practices are always under review," he says. "We were inspected two-and-a-half years ago and got a clean bill of health. Safety has always been a very high priority."

In Outward Bound's 50-year history, there have been 10 fatalities. All accidents and near-misses are reported and the company, which has three centres in the UK, employs a team of independent safety advisers.

"Business is buoyant at present. There are more people booked to come to our centres this year than last year. Following Lyme Bay there was a reticence in people towards the outdoors but that was shortlived," says Mr Ripley.

"The programmes that we run give people an experience of something completely new. People come here and do activities that are difficult and demanding, and once they realise they can do them they grow up and get a lot more self-confidence."

TES september 6 1996 christopher jones "They have created a sledgehammer to crack a nut and they have missed the nut"

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