Belfast Telegraph

Lessons will be learned from schoolboy’s death

Stormont Executive press release - Department of Education

Education Minister, John O’Dowd, has committed to implementing any lessons to be learned from the tragic death of a young rugby player.

Ben Robinson, who was 14, died during a school rugby match in January 2011. At his inquest yesterday, the Coroner found that he had died as a result of ‘second impact syndrome’.

Mr O’Dowd said: “Ben Robinson’s death was a tragedy. It had a devastating impact not only on his family, but also his friends, teammates and the wider school community.

“Deaths from second impact syndrome are, thankfully, rare – indeed this is the first recorded death of its kind here. Nevertheless, I am determined that the lessons from this tragic case are learned and implemented so that we can prevent another family from suffering such a loss.

“Earlier this year my Department issued all schools with a copy of ‘Safe Practice in PE and Sports’, a book which covers a broad range of safety issues connected to sports and games. This is an important document and I expect all schools to ensure they implement the recommendations contained in it.

“Of course head injuries do not just happen on the rugby field; they can happen on any sports field, in the playground, on a field trip or even in the classroom. As such, schools should already have in place a risk management process to anticipate, minimise and where possible eliminate foreseeable risks.

“Nevertheless, there may be more that can be done. Once I receive the Coroner’s report I will be giving it immediate and careful consideration to ensure we can provide schools with updated guidance as quickly as possible. Despite the guidance that already exists, it would seem to me that we need to do more to raise the profile of second impact syndrome.

“The safety and welfare of pupils is paramount and while I do want to provide schools with guidance as quickly as possible in response to this tragic event, I want to make sure it is the right guidance. I will want to liaise with the Chief Medical Officer to ensure his professional advice is incorporated. I will also want to know how the Irish Rugby Football Union will update their guidance and training in light of this case.

“I understand that Ben’s father has indicated he would like to meet with me to discuss the way forward. I would be happy to meet with Mr Robinson as I look at what can and should be done.

“My top priority as I look at this issue will be ensuring that no other family has to go through what Ben’s family has been through.”

Notes to editors:

1. The Department of Education’s ‘Education Works’ campaign encourages families to play, talk, read and count with their child and to ‘Get Involved Because Education Works’. The campaign highlights the vital role families can play in helping children do well at school and improve their life chances. Visit for more information.

Watch the TV ad on the Department’s YouTube channel:

2. See photos from the Department of Education in our collection at

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