A HUNTINGDONSHIRE primary school has come under fire for taking youngsters on a trip to see birds being shot.

Ashbeach Primary School, in Ramsey St Mary’s, took a group of 10-year-olds to Welney Marshes to watch members of the Ely and District Wildfowlers Association shooting ducks.

Ray Poolman told The Hunts Post that his daughter was so distressed by the experience – one duck was shot and retrieved by a dog – that she cried during the trip and suffered from a bad headache.

Mr Poolman, 49, of Ramsey Heights, said: “She thought she was going to a bird watching place but it turns out it was a shoot.”

A letter sent home by the school told parents the youngsters would watch a “flight” but Mr Poolman said it did not say children would see birds being shot.

“I have since spoken to some of my friends who go shooting and they told me that ‘flight’ means ‘shoot’. I thought the kids would be watching the birds coming into roost or migrating. My daughter came home absolutely distraught and in floods of tears. She thought she was going to a bird-watching place.

“I was absolutely unaware that it was a shoot – otherwise she wouldn’t have been there. There’s no way it’s an educational trip. It shouldn’t have been arranged by teachers in school time. I can’t believe they put children in that environment. What if something had gone wrong?”

Mr Poolman met with headteacher Shirley Stapleton and said she told him it was “rural and normal”.

“Mrs Stapleton argued that we had agreed to it because we’d had a letter but it doesn’t say they were going to take my child where they are shooting birds. They allowed children to witness the death of an animal.”

He added: “Ramsey might be rural but we have a Tesco – people don’t need to walk around killing animals to survive any more.”

He has been in touch with Ramsey councillor Peter Reeve and has contacted the education authority and the school’s board of governors.

“It shouldn’t have been in school time and there most certainly should have had a very detailed description of what was going to be seen so we could make an informed decision.”

Headteacher Mrs Stapleton told The Hunts Post that the girl’s distress was “questionable” but refused to comment further.

In a statement she added: “This is an annual trip which has taken place for several years. It is not compulsory – it is entirely up to individuals and parents must return a signed permission slip before their child can go.

“Following a class discussion about the visit, a letter was sent home to explain that children would find out more about wildfowling, the conservation of the landscape and the dogs and equipment used. The letter sent home before the trip made it clear that wildfowling was involved.

“The school does not promote the shooting of wildlife but tries to encourage children to be able to make informed decisions about the traditions, sports and activities which take place in their local environment.

“All the children indicated at the end of the visit that they had thoroughly enjoyed it. However, if any parents feel they were unclear about what the children would be experiencing, I would be very happy to talk to them.”

● Would you know what wildfowling is? And would you allow your child to watch the sport? Send your views to editor@huntspost.co.uk or to: The Hunts Post, 30 High Street, Huntingdon PE29 3TB.