I know that many of you will have been in discussion with your pupils and colleagues about the tragic deaths of so many innocent people at the Manchester Arena on Monday. To those of you directly affected by this dreadful event, I send out my most heartfelt condolence.
I know that as dedicated professionals and concerned parents, you have done and will continue to do all that is needed to support members of your school community, including parents and governors. It is at times like this that we must remember to be each other’s support and strength.
To colleagues in leadership, please reach out to your staff and give them the guidance and direction they need to support their pupils. Give them the time and space to share their thoughts with each other and recognise that they too will be feeling as bewildered as the children and young adults seeking their counsel.
You are not expected as school leaders to have all the answers. There will be local authority action plans and risk assessments prepared in advance to deal with exactly this kind of eventuality, some of which may require amendment to deal with a change in local circumstances or particular concerns arising in your school. It is important for you to be consulted on and kept informed of any changes to the local plan. Seek advice from your local safeguarding team.
As teachers you will know that the best way to allay children’s fears and concerns is to address them head-on and to do it in a way which is age appropriate. There is nothing wrong in admitting that you do not have all the answers. None of us know why this terrible thing has happened, whether it will happen again and in our towns or cities. All we know is that we owe it to those who died and also to those who survived, to do our best to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.
The PSHE Association has produced guidance which gives practical suggestions for ways that you can structure questioning, discussion or further learning about this and other similar events. You may find the guidance here.
You will also find some very useful guidance on responding to children affected by the media coverage here.
We know from previous experience that there will be parents and children who are influenced by racist views, ideas and language and may repeat and voice negative ideas about immigrants, asylum seekers, or people from particular religions, countries or communities. All expressions of racism, anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia should be treated seriously. Whole school activities should be planned as well as following your school procedures on equal opportunities, safeguarding and harassment and bullying. Your role as school rep will be crucial in ensuring that proper procedures are followed by management, that staff and pupils are given appropriate support and that members targeted for abuse feel protected and supported by their Union.