Talking about terrorist attacks with young people – a dilemma for us all.

At the close of the first  half of term, my blog was a straightforward statement from the Deputy Chief Constable of the Thames Valley police, stating the heightened position of the National Terrorism Threat, being raised to critical following the Manchester arena bombing at the close of the Ariana Grande concert. 10 days onwards, and whilst the threat level had been reduced, our country has experienced a second horrific incident at and near London Bridge on Saturday evening.

Like so many of us, I have tried to stay in touch with as much of the unfolding news around the tragedies as they have occurred, and follow with interest the reactions of the communities concerned, the wider press and subsequent publicity.  With the very wide age and range of children in our school, we are really aware that their experiences are going to be very different.  With secondary and Sixth Form pupils, we have engaged very directly with the events and aftermaths, and will continue to do because their experiences with family and on-line are feeding many lines on information and a diversity of approach.  This is all happening at the time of a general election, and the senior school community is very much embracing the opportunity to study the news and discuss the issues.

The younger the child, the greater care we are taking, and we are sensitive that parents will need good information on how we are tackling these issues (if and when we do), so they can stay in step and work with us to allay fears and calm nerves.  The BBC have provided good, immediate advice for schools and families, here, which we have in use already, and as and when those that support our work provide further, more focussed advice, we’ll share that too.

School leadership across the Claires Court sites is meeting on Thursday this week to discuss further the ramifications of the events so far, discuss further our routines for safety and critical incidents, and check our calendar activity to see if there are any forthcoming events we should cancel in the light of their proximity to areas of risk.  I will be writing further to all parents on Friday this next week (16 June) to confirm outcomes from our deliberations and highlight any additional preventative measures we are putting in place to assist our school and community to feel safer.

Such has been the unexpected nature of the outrages we have seen this year so far, I don’t feel it is our role to talk up the dangers alone. As Catherine Vale writes in the Guardian last Friday:

“Show them the good:  Terror attacks are frightening, and the immediate aftermath can be confusing and overwhelming for young people. But where there is violence there is also good: emergency responders on the scene; civilians offering their homes to strangers; blood donors queuing up round the block; and taxi drivers offering free rides. Reminding young people of this can help alleviate students’ fear and put the events in perspective.”

And despite the ghastliness of the news, we can be inspired by those around us who have been able to make response already.  Scooter Braun, Ariana Grande’s manager spoke these words last night at Old Trafford during the benefit concert for the victims of the first tragedy, referencing the terrible London Bridge attacks which took place on 3 June :

‘As we saw yesterday, evil will test us, it will show it’s face again, but because of you we can say we will be ready, we will be fearless, we will be great and we will honour our children. Because we owe it to those children whose futures were ripped away from them to be brave.

‘They demand our bravery. Hatred will never win, fear will never divide us, because on this day we all stood with Manchester.’


About jameswilding

Academic Principal Claires Court Schools Long term member & advocate of the Independent Schools Association
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