Farsley Farfield Primary School

Terrorism-related assembly today (Juniors only)

This morning I led an assembly for Junior (7-11) children about the two recent terrorist attacks. As it stands, we have decided not to do an assembly like this for the infants but we will respond to any concerns expressed.

We started off with the tug of war rope stretched across the front of the hall and we looked at a couple of questions to model to the children what extremist and extremism means:

  • What should children do at school?
  • How should animals be treated?

We positioned mainstream views in the centre, with lots of children coming out to be positioned there, and then explored some increasingly radical/extreme views – some expressed genuinely and some in role play. As views expressed became more extreme, they elicited some laughing and then shock. This was deliberate: some extremist views can just be mocked, but then some overstep any mark and cannot be tolerated, especially when they incite violence.  The single children or adult at the extremities of the rope contrasted with the much larger groups nearer the centre.

Using Newsround videos, we discussed the two attacks and watched some concert footage. We also watched an animation about what we might do if we are upset about the news.

We returned to the rope model (without children coming out) and talked about the vast, vast majority of Muslims being around the centre of the rope. We read child-friendly extracts from the statement from the Muslim Council of Britain about the attacks to illustrate that the Muslim community is as shocked and disgusted as everyone else. I had told the children that when I was a boy there was terrorism in Northern Ireland and Britain, and compared that to our experiences now. It is important for the children to know that people of many faith backgrounds (and none) have been involved in terrorism over the years.

Finally, we took questions and comments from the children and had a prayer.  The children asked good questions and I suspect that they may wish to discuss these issues further.

The children have observed the minute’s silence at 11.00 and will have an opportunity to discuss any issues arising from the assembly in class groups.

If any parents would like advice about talking about these issues with their children, the NSPCC’s support may be useful: https://www.nspcc.org.uk/what-we-do/news-opinion/supporting-children-worried-about-terrorism/

I appreciate that this is a complex, emotionally challenging issue, but I have done my best to present the facts in a ‘child-friendly’, reassuring manner. I regard the multi-faith, multicultural mix in our school to be a strength and asset and our relationships are strong. We must not and will not let terrorists jeopardise this.

Mr. Harris

11

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15 Comments

  • Emma Pickering says:

    Well done! I think it is important to openly & appropriately address the recent terrible events with the children within the school. This might also encourage & give confidence to families that it is ok to talk with their children about terrorism if not already doing so.

    Growing up in Northern Ireland I can unfortunately understand the divisions & suspicions that can grow between different cultures under such circumstances unless we promote positive communication in our communities especially with children & young people.

    • Peter Harris says:

      I am pleased to get such positive feedback Emma. Thank you. You bring a personal experience and perspective that I can’t.

  • Shamim Sadiq says:

    Thank you Mr. Harris for presenting such an assembly. It is a distressing time for all. Hopefully the children may have acquired some kind of understanding about these recent terrible events.

    • Peter Harris says:

      I hope so Shamim. For some, it may have gone over their heads but others may have developed their understanding of what is going on. I have heard back from some parents whose children appear to have understood the assembly well and one or two others for whom it was less appropriate.

  • Jackie Malone says:

    Thank you for addressing this complex and difficult issue in such a helpful way. We do discuss these issues at home and try to avoid shielding our children from news of such events and it is helpful for school to engage with this in such a positive way to reduce fear and encourage openness and tolerance.

  • Lisa Wright says:

    I would pass by a memorial for those who lost their life during the troubles every time I went to the city centre. Its a very hard situation to explain to children.

  • Louisa Westney says:

    Thank you for addressing this with the children. It has been very difficult to know how to approach this issue in order to encourage discussion and hopefully alleviate some fears, and this will certainly have helped.

  • Netti Cairns says:

    My daughter is in reception and (I hope) knows nothing of the attacks.

    This is such a difficult topic to discuss with children. Thank you for tackling this and for sharing the detail of how you have dealt with this in school. It is really helpful.

    • Peter Harris says:

      Thanks for the feedback Netti. We decided not to speak to the infants about this for the very reason you have given. Not everyone has approved of speaking about this with the juniors, but it was a judgement call that I felt needed to be made.

  • Marcia Hilton says:

    Thank you for tackling this head on. I strongly support your approach to this difficult and emotionally charged subject. I discussed this with George tonight – it clearly made an impression on him and sparked a good discussion – exactly as it should – The more our children can stand united, no matter what background, religion, race or gender, the better, so thank you.

    • Peter Harris says:

      Thanks for this Marcia. I am glad that it was helpful and I am pleased that the issues were explored further at home.

  • June Parsons says:

    There’s little to be gained from shielding children from the world. The more they understand, the more tolerant they will be of people’s differences. We are grateful you have addressed the recent attacks and provided the opportunity for the children to openly discuss it and their feelings in a neutral safe environment. We have discussed it with our daughter in year 2 and she understands it.