COLUMN: Support for students after terror attacks

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Like everyone else up and down the country, we were all left shocked and appalled by the violence seen recently in London and Manchester and the two minute silences we held in their wake were extremely well observed.

For one student, the attack was far too close for comfort.

She had been at the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester on that Monday night, but thankfully she wasn’t harmed in any way.

We have offered her counselling to help her deal with her experience and that offer has also been made to others who may be affected by what has taken place.

We have a part-time counsellor working in school as part of our commitment to giving students the opportunity to talk to someone about issues such as family problems, exam pressure, abuse and bullying. Sad to say, her waiting list is very long.

When it came to the Ariana Grande concert, our response went one step further, because we recognised that while it was horrifying to everyone, the fact that it involved young people attending a pop concert 
meant it would resonate even more strongly with our students.

In fact, one concerned parent even emailed me saying that she had picked up on social media messages between her daughter and her friends, who were anxious about their own 
safety.

I was able to reassure her by explaining that we had encouraged students to discuss the events and share their own thoughts during their form tutor periods, and our staff were also advised on how to speak to young people about 
events such as terror attacks.

We also shared the thoughts of faith leaders from a number of different religions condemning the attacks and offering messages of peace, while students could also write down their own feelings on a reflections space set up in our humanities department.

As someone whose teenage years were lived under the twin threat of being bombed by the IRA and imminent nuclear war, this approach is not something that I recognise from my school days.

However, although students are still in the main preoccupied with issues in their own lives, many students are still talking about the terror attacks and are clearly upset and angry.

That’s why it is important that school is not just a place of learning but a supportive community where young people can talk about their feelings, reflect and be reassured.