Head teacher criticised after posing near cliff edge at Birling Gap

Ms Barlow since deleted her Twitter account
Ms Barlow since deleted her Twitter account

A head teacher has come under fire for posting a photo on social media of herself close to the edge at Birling Gap.

Parents complained after Caroline Barlow of Heathfield Community College shared the image with the caption ‘living on the edge’.

Some claimed her behaviour was ‘risky’ but she argued the photo made her appear closer to the edge than she was.

Ms Barlow said in a statement, “I would wish it to be made clear that despite the angle the picture appears to show, there was in fact good distance between myself and the edge of the cliff.

“At all times both myself and the others in my party were in complete safety and made sure that due respect was shown to the potential dangers of the site.”

She added, “Having witnessed the actions of other members of the public on such a busy day, this was not the case by all present.

“It was of concern to us that on such a busy day there was no staff present from the Centre, no protection to stop others who were going to the edge, leaning over and indeed taking selfies as has been reported in other cases.

“I completely support and endorse messages from the National Trust and Coastguards which urge caution around all sites of interest and beauty in East Sussex such that all adults and children are able to enjoy these areas in safety, as we did.”

She has deactivated her Twitter account.

The Coastguard has since called out the ‘selfie culture’ where people take risks for a good photo.

David Jones, Duty Controller for HM Coastguard said, “In the last week, we’ve been sent numerous alarming photographs of people on cliff edges and also responded to an increased number of call outs where people have got into difficulty on cliffs.

“One of our biggest problems is tackling the ‘selfie culture’ where people take risks to get a dramatic photograph of themselves on a dangerous cliff edge or during a tidal surge – no selfie or photograph is worth risking your life for.

“Don’t be tempted to go and investigate and don’t risk going to the edge to get a dramatic picture.

“The cliffs along the UK coastline are continually eroding, with pieces falling from them that can be just a few small rocks or as large as a car.

“It’s impossible to predict when the next piece might fall or how big it will be.

“Cliffs are very unstable in places and we really can’t stress enough how important it is to keep back from the edge.

“There is no ‘safe’ place to be. Some of the cracks that have appeared have been several feet away from the edge.”

Meanwhile, A National Trust spokesperson said, “It isn’t safe to sit or stand close to the edge of the cliffs as they may be unstable or undercut in place.

“We advise visitors to stay back from the cliff edge when visiting the area. There is clear guidance on our signs on the approach to the cliffs and on our website.”

Call 999 and ask for the Coastguard if you see anyone in difficulty or get into trouble yourself at the coast.