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Discussing terrorist attacks in the classroom: a generic framework

It is advised that all schools build PSHE into their planned curriculum, however there are often times where staff need to quickly respond to unforeseen events by acknowledging what has happened and alleviating young people’s worries right away. In the case of a terrorist attack, news can travel fast, and it is often difficult for young people—especially those with access to social media, where a vast range of opinions can spread in a matter of minutes—to discern the speculation from the facts.

The PSHE Association has issued a generic framework, which they say is not intended to act as a script but rather “a bank of possible openings for discussion” within a school setting in the days following a terrorist attack.

Some of the questions for students included in the framework are as follows:

  • What do I think and feel about what has happened, is happening, and might happen next?
  • How do we feel about what has happened?
  • Are these feelings appropriate—is it ‘okay’ to feel like this?
  • Do we need to ‘put on hold’ or challenge any of our immediate feelings?
  • Are we in danger of ‘generalising’ the actions of a few to a larger group or community?
  • Are there any individuals or groups who may be feeling vulnerable at the moment?
  • What activities can we undertake to prevent terrorist attacks from dividing our community?

These events cannot be predicted, and indeed staff in schools may feel a greater responsibility than most to remain calm, collected and confident in the hours directly after an attack has happened in an attempt at projecting the same reaction onto their students.

It is important to remember that everyone will process these events in different ways, and they can often have a lasting impact on individuals and communities. PSHE education and hearing teachers addressing these concerns can go some way to supporting students and minimising the emotional impact of such events.

It is of equal importance to be aware of your Prevent Duty as a member of school staff. It is an Ofsted safeguarding requirement that all teachers receive up-to-date training in their Prevent Duty, and are aware of the necessary steps to take if they suspect a child or young person is at risk of becoming radicalised.

Our Safeguarding In Education online training course covers all of the necessary safeguarding requirements, including a section dedicated to Awareness of Prevent Duty. The course takes 1-2 hours to complete online, and can be stopped and started as necessary to fit in with busy teaching schedules. The certificate you receive upon completion of the course can be presented to Ofsted as evidence of your training.