Contribution to Talk Radio

Presenters – Jamie East & Co-Host Anna Williamson

23rd March, 2018

I am often asked to provide a professional psychologist perspective to news and current affairs programmes on TV and radio. My first response is obviously to ask about the subject under discussion, the prompt and the programme’s particular angle.

Today the prompt was a piece in ‘The Sun” headed:
Children as young as FOUR to be given lessons on what to do during a terror attack Schools set to prepare for potential attacks by getting pupils to take part in ‘lockdown drills’

For a view of the full article click here

Fighting the urge to refuse on principle and contribute to the ‘any publicity is good publicity’ dynamic for this publication, I agreed and went through my usual process of bringing myself up to date and researching at speed the topic to be covered so that I could say something relevant and psychologically informed.

Four main points leapt out:

1. We need to view this topic with perspective. All schools have a duty of care for their pupils and staff and the actions to be taken in the case of a terror attack are, in many ways similar to that of other threats to life, health and wellbeing such as a fire

2. Teachers have the hard-earnt, day-to-day knowledge, skills and experience of their children that places them in a good position to explain in age- appropriate language what is happening in the event of an actual attack or, much more likely, during a rehearsal of their measures for following their school’s safety plan

3. Teachers are similarly well-placed to listen to and notice children’s anxieties if they arise in relation to the terrifying topic of terrorist acts and to share and address these with the children’s families

4. Intrinsic to best practice for teachers pre and primary school-aged children is to have good communication with parents and carers. Actually, I’d go further and say this applies to teachers of children and young people all the way through formal education.

This is an important and topical subject and comes on the back of actions taken last year (2017) by The National Police Chief’s Council in collaboration with the National Counter Terrorism Security Office and supported by the Department for Education (DfE). Key Stage 3 and 4 Lesson plans, films and even an emoji representing the slogan ‘Run, Hide, Tell’ are all available on line. The sensationalist article that gave rise to this radio item chose to focus on the idea of four-year-olds being taught about what to do in the event of a terror attack but is partial and emotive. However, there is no getting away from the fact that acts of terrorism are a part of modern day life. On the day of this broadcast the teatime news programmes on television were broadcasting details of an attack on a French supermarket.  Parents will quite rightly want to shield their children from this grim reality as much as they can and also get things into proportion, i.e. make it clear that such events are extremely rare.  However, on reflection, if popular newspapers draw attention to what schools are doing to keep children as safe as possible it has to be a good thing for everybody’s peace of mind and general wellbeing.

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