Schools toughen safety policies

02:43, Dec 03 2012
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Mark Bowden, Taranaki's representative on the New Zealand secondary schools' sports council, said the Topec incident sparked a national review of sporting and recreational events.

Schools around New Zealand are tightening up their outdoor education policies after August's Topec tragedy on Paritutu.

Spotswood College students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo, both 17, and Topec instructor Bryce Jourdain, 42, drowned when they were swept to sea while rock climbing.

Spotswood College principal Mark Bowden, who represents Taranaki's principals on the New Zealand secondary schools' sports council, said the incident sparked a national review of sporting events, including camps and sports tournaments.

Changes include allowing parents to state which activities they do not want their children taking part in. They will also be told if scheduled events alter during the day.

Mr Bowden said issues around national events and tournament procedures were being examined.

"As a result of those discussions, local principals are also looking at Taranaki Secondary School Sports Association events closely," he said.


Mr Bowden said Spotswood had started reviewing its processes and procedures before August, but other principals in Taranaki have confirmed the Paritutu incident got the ball rolling.

The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, formerly the Department of Labour, has until February 8 to release its report on its findings of what went wrong on Paritutu on August 8.

Several Taranaki principals expect to review their policies again once the report's recommendations are made.

Hawera High School principal Hans Konlechner said its board of trustees sat down and looked at their policy in light of the incident.

"We're happy with the procedures we have in place but we have taken the time to refresh staff's knowledge and understanding of them and we're confident they know what to do in particular situations," he said.

For Francis Douglas Memorial College and Opunake High School, the incident heightened their awareness of safety procedures.

Chris Moller, deputy principal at Francis Douglas, said the big changes had been an audit form to providers where they must confirm their courses are certified and instructors are fully qualified to run activities.

"Our staff leaders in the areas of waka ama and rowing will need to have a safety plan signed by the local organisation to attest that they are partaking in good safety practices," he said.

Opunake High School principal Maria Potter said it had undertaken an outdoor education review, as it did every year.

"We have put more staff through first aid courses just so they're more aware of it," she said.

"We're pretty much up to scratch as it is but it will be interesting to see what the [government] report comes out with next year."

Until the report is released Mr Bowden has put all high-risk activities on hold and postponed camps at Topec, including one planned for the first term next year.

Of the three men who died in August, only Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye had not yet had a memorial. It will take place at TSB Stadium on Saturday. In Saturday's Taranaki Daily News a death notice for him was published after New Plymouth police issued the family with an interim death certificate this week.

Taranaki Daily News