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School children from Leeds in Belgian hospital after being taken ill

Published 22/09/2015

The school children and staff were reportedly taken ill when they arrived at the ferry port
The school children and staff were reportedly taken ill when they arrived at the ferry port

Fifty children and members of staff from a Leeds school have been taken to hospital in Belgium after they were taken ill while returning from a school trip.

Those affected, who are from Guiseley School, were on a short tour of First World War related sites in Belgium and France when they were apparently struck down with food poisoning as they approached the ferry terminal in Zeebrugge.

Paul Clayton, acting co-headteacher of the school, said on Tuesday: " Whilst travelling back from a school trip to Belgium and France, a number of our staff and children were taken ill.

"Both children and staff have been checked by doctors and while their conditions are not thought to be serious or contagious, as a precaution, they were kept in hospital and monitored overnight.

"Our first priority is always the safety of our children and we are in close contact with parents and carers.

"Extra staff from the school have now arrived in Belgium to assist further, and working with the Belgian authorities, we are hopeful that the children will be returning home tomorrow. We will continue to work with public health to keep a close eye on all the children in the upcoming days."

The school posted a message to parents on its website which urged parents to get in touch if they were concerned.

Belgian news reports said the children and staff became ill with food poisoning as their buses entered the ferry port.

They said those affected had been taken to seven hospitals in the area after an emergency plan was triggered. The Red Cross was also involved in the operation and those not affected were taken to a hostel.

Some of the children who were not affected but who were stranded overnight in Zeebrugge took to social media to update those at home.

One student apparently on the trip said on Twitter: "Such a scary night in Belgium."

Another posted: "THIS IS HELL #stranded"

A school spokesman said the visit was a Year 11 trip to the battlefields of the First World War in France and Belgium as part of their history studies.

He said a total of 80 students were on the trip, plus eight members of staff and two bus drivers. Of those who became ill, 46 were children and four were members of staff.

The spokesman said all the staff have now been discharged from hospital along with 23 of the affected pupils.

He said more children are expected to be discharged later and all those discharged and unaffected w ill return home tonight.

He said it was "still unclear" what had caused the illness.

One parent waiting back in Leeds said he thought the school "had been really good in terms of communication" and was pleased more staff had been sent to Belgium.

He said he thought one or two children had begun to get diarrhoea early on the second day of the trip but things got much worse as they were returning home.

"My son's been discharged now and he's not been too worried but I'm sure some children and some parents will have been a lot more concerned," the parent said.

"I think one problem is that some parents have not known where their kids are as they've been spread around about seven hospitals."

But another parent described the communication from the school as "appalling".

The father said he got a phone call from his 15-year-old daughter at around 5pm on Monday, telling him that they would not be getting the overnight ferry as some of the Year 11 students were being sick.

He said: "They started dropping, every 10 or 15 minutes another pupil was being sick.

"They were told they weren't allowed on and got a police escort to a hostel after waiting for a bus driver.

"I think the way they've handled it over there has been fine."

The parent said he received a call from the school at around 8pm and two texts on Tuesday, the latest saying that some students will return by ferry on Tuesday night.

The text, sent on Tuesday, said: "Half of those under observation will have been discharged by 2pm.

"At least one group will be returning on the overnight ferry.

"School will confirm this afternoon which students are fit to travel and will return today."

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