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Been there, close to that...


Charlotte Shaw, one of a team of teenage walkers, fell into a stream on Dartmoor and died. It sounds like she was a fairly fit and competent child, but that her companions were not, and that she was forced into a position of taking responsibility for them because they weren't permitted to break off the training when they got cold and wet.

I really didn't think they still did stuff like this. In the early 80's I vividly remember teachers at my rather poor quality North Devon school (different one, similar idea tho) doing exactly the same thing on my Duke of Edinburgh's hike. Exmoor, not Dartmoor, but I can honestly say I have never been so wet and cold while clothed.

I hope they at least had modern equipment: we were told we must wear the supplied heavy and uncomfortable poorly fitted Navy-issue boots and carry terrible heavy absorbent rucksacks which were a real torment to carry when completely soaked, and they rubbed, and rubbed... I was at least not too horribly unfit, but a friend I was walking with was very unfit and rather overweight and I can still feel the stress now of the thought running round and round the back of my brain 'what do we do if she collapses out here in the pouring rain...?'. Struggling on, mile after mile, soaked through, freezing and exhausted. No mobile phones then of course....

Allowing children to take risks if they want to do so is something I can see as a positive: forcing unwilling children to march across rough, dangerous country riven with flash floods and bogs in pouring rain for no particular reason is something I find difficult to register as anything other than abusive. It certainly put me off the idea of ever going hiking as a hobby, if that was the idea.

Poor Charlotte, and poor Yasmin. :-(



( 17 comments — Leave a comment )
7th Dec, 2009 21:03 (UTC)
Brrr. Sends my blood cold too. You know I have quite a relaxed attitude to kids and risk (took my 2yo out riding yesterday...) but I would be [well, I can't think of the word, furious doesn't get close, think cold implacable rage], if someone had forced my child on like that and then she died. If it had been her choice, that would be different. :-( J
8th Dec, 2009 09:59 (UTC)
(PS that was me, Neuromancer, not Kargicq making that comment:)
8th Dec, 2009 11:15 (UTC)
LOL, would *never* have guessed. What with the implacable rage and all that. :-p
10th Dec, 2009 08:51 (UTC)
Implacable rage, that's me. Mind you, I think the mild-mannered Kargicq might become fairly implacable under the circs. described... -N.
7th Dec, 2009 21:40 (UTC)
That sounds pretty close to manslaughter to me. It'll be interesting to see what the coroner says.

Most of the schools I go enter teams in this event. And every year it seems we get news stories of someone being swept away or of whole teams having to be winched off the moor by a helicopter from Culdrose.

Reminds me of the rather inept interviewee I rejected last week. His best example of leadership was leading his team on a Duke of Edinburgh hike (not something that impresses this interviewer at all anyway - all it tells me is that you can walk long distances, something which is of precisely no relevance in accountancy). He was the leader because he was "the best at reading maps". He took the group the wrong way, and having realised his mistake, proved his almost Alexander-like leadership qualities by asking the others (the ones who couldn't read maps, remember?) which way they should go. And this was his best example. He didn't get an offer.
8th Dec, 2009 07:49 (UTC)
Probably the most important part of hillwalking is knowing when to get the hell off the hill. If conditions were half as bad as described, they should have found a safe route down.
8th Dec, 2009 08:08 (UTC)
EDIT By which I mean that their teacher should have bloody well let them- on re-reading my comment I realised it could be taken to mean that the children should have found a safe way down- which they tried to do by deciding as a group not to continue. It was the teacher who was at fault for not allowing them.
8th Dec, 2009 09:03 (UTC)
Yes, quite. These events are presented as a chance for the participants to develop independence and responsibility: if they aren't allowed to stop when they want to, or indeed, when they think they might be at risk, then that's completely the opposite of independence; it is 'you must obey orders no matter how stupid they are'.

I always felt the spirit of 1914 was hovering around my school, but it seems incredible now we are so safety conscious and litigious that it's still being propagated by a teacher of all professions!
8th Dec, 2009 10:03 (UTC)
I feel very lucky. My school allowed us to use youth hostels for our D of E expeditions, so I spent both of mine wandering along sunlit footpaths in the Cotswolds and the Wye Valley. (I only did bronze and silver; IIRC, gold was much stricter about it being proper camping in rugged wild places.)

One of my most uncomfortable memories, though, was of a preparatory night hike done as a big group in the Forest of Dean. The weather was awful, and I was suprised at how scary I found the unending dark forest and how depressing a walk was when you couldn't see a thing. I remember meeting up with the minibus, and a teacher telling us that a ferry had just sunk and drowned hundreds, which felt like the final touch of misery to the whole experience. The weather that night must have been very memorably bad locally, since just the other week my Dad apparently mentioned to a friend that I'd gone on a night hike the night the Herald of Free Enterprise sank, and even 20 years on, this friend remembered the weather and was amazed we'd been allowed out.
8th Dec, 2009 11:14 (UTC)
Like so many things other things at my school, it was something that *could* have been exciting and fun, but was transformed by the way it was implemented into unpleasant drudgery.

I only did the Bronze and Silver hikes because they needed someone else to make up the party, I didn't do the other bits to actually get the badge, could never see the point.
8th Dec, 2009 13:24 (UTC)
YOUTH HOSTELS!?!?!?! Now that's not in the spirit of it at all. :-) N.
8th Dec, 2009 14:13 (UTC)
Having read the article I am very suprised the teacher is not up for a manslaughter charge, he forced them to carry on so ...
8th Dec, 2009 15:14 (UTC)
My guess would be that the witness has dramatised things somewhat and that it's not quite as clearcut as the journalist makes it sound or as you say, surely the teacher would have been charged?
8th Dec, 2009 14:33 (UTC)
I suppose you could look at this another way:

Maybe the way this is supposed to be character-forming is that the cleverer children will realise that to increase their chance of survival, they should either tell the teacher to f**k off when he tells them to jump across the raging torrent or should refuse to go on the trip in the first place*.

* I chose the latter course of action when I was at school. We didn't do the Ten Tors or Duke of Edinburgh Award, but there was a 'mandatory' geography field trip when I was 14 which involved hiking in the lake district and staying in youth hostels. I put my foot down and refused to go. I'm sure I had a better week (and learned more) than the gulllible saps who followed the herd.
8th Dec, 2009 15:05 (UTC)
That's all very well for a kid with 2 supportive parents at home to back them up, but nowadays, how many have that security?

In our group, my father had recently died and so I didnt' want to get my mother involved in conflict with the school. Someone else's parents were elsewhere in the RAF and only intermittently contactable, and a third had both parents teaching at the school.
8th Dec, 2009 15:21 (UTC)
So you'd just lost your father, your mother had just lost her husband and the school decided that you didn't need to be at home.


I can see why you hated your school.

(And as for the parents in the RAF only being intermittently contactable? Didn't they have telephones in North Devon then? I would certainly hope that the RAF is able to get in touch with all of its personnel, even the ones flying Tornadoes over Basra.)

Edited at 2009-12-08 15:21 (UTC)
8th Dec, 2009 15:53 (UTC)
Yes, of course they were contactable in that sense, but not right there close by and immediately on hand if, for example, their child started to think 'hang on, this doesn't seem like what I originally volunteered for'... and the school's representative wasn't helpful.

There's a difference between 'I can get hold of them in the event of disaster' and 'I'm not quite comfortable about this and would like an adult to talk to and take my side'.
( 17 comments — Leave a comment )

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