Murder will not halt school trips

Launceston College will continue to organise visits abroad despite the murder of Caroline Dickinson, 13, who was raped and murdered as she slept in a hostel bedroom with four other girls in Brittany, France.

The head of the Cornwall school, Alan Wroath, said the trips must continue despite the fact that such a tragedy would inevitably undermine the confidence of teachers who take on the heavy responsibility of organising them.

"We cannot allow this tragedy to stop children visiting and understanding the world they are growing into," he said.

And he added that while it was important that lessons were learnt from the tragedy - especially about the security of youth hostels - it was worth remembering that the party could have been camping, with no warden, no doors. He said there was a limit to what checks could reasonably be expected of schools. Guidelines were already stringent but would be reviewed.

He said: "When the time is right we shall review the arrangements made for this trip and for every other trip which is part of our Activities Week. . . The tragedy is that in this society there are people who are determined to commit evil and it is very difficult to secure against them."

Caroline was found dead by one of the other girls last Thursday during a week-long visit to Pleine Fougeres, about 30 miles from St Malo. During the trip the children had visited attractions such as Bayeux and Mont St Michel.

French police have charged Patrice Pade with the rape and murder. Mr Wroath said: "Nothing can bring Caroline back to us, but it is hard not to feel some relief that this man has been caught and cannot give anyone else the pain he has caused to us. It is a great comfort to the children on the trip."

He said the school was naturally devastated by news of Caroline's death. "Caroline was a lovely girl - she worked hard, had lots of friends and always had a ready smile. She was quiet and gentle - a credit to the college."

The head took two assemblies on Monday - one only for Year 8, Caroline's group. "I told them about what had happened, talked about Caroline and about how we can make sense of something as appalling as this happening. Some children were very emotional, others are determined to be strong for their friends." Mr Wroath hopes that for the last few days of the school year the college would be allowed to come to terms with its grief and begin the healing process.

Launceston College had used the youth hostel as a base for its Activities Week for three years and it was chosen because of its quiet, but central position. Activities Week has been an established part of the 1,000 pupil college since 1975 and is a time when Year 7, 8 and 9 take part in a range of activities both in this country and abroad.

Mr Wroath said the five adults who accompanied the party of 40 children were experienced professionals who had his full support. He praised the strong and dedicated team at the school that had helped him cope with the tragedy. A suitable memorial for the dead girl will eventually be created.

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