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Monday, 8 October, 2001, 12:06 GMT 13:06 UK
Today's assembly is about war
School assembly
Schools can be a "stabilising influence", say heads
Assemblies in school halls across the country will this morning be addressing the military strikes against Afghanistan.

And head teachers are being advised to offer reassurance to pupils worried by the images of war - and to encourage a calm and informed attitude towards the conflict.

"Schools can be stabilising influences, they can steady nerves and put matters into context," says Russell Clarke, deputy general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association.

Afghan soldier
Children will be watching images of war on television

"Head teachers will also want to counter any suggestion that this is a war against Islam," he said, particularly in areas where there might be ethnic tensions.

Instead schools will have a role to play in discussing the attacks and answering questions in a neutral and non-inflammatory manner.

"Pupils will have watched the news and will come to school with questions about what they've seen."

And he said that teachers and specialist staff will be available for any pupils who might be worried by talk of war.

The mood of pupils' response to the events following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center has also shifted, he suggests.


"There was a kind of excitement, because it felt like fiction at the outset. But that has changed - and some children will be frightened."

"Schools can offer security and a place to talk about what has happened."

This approach to the conflict is in contrast to the patriotism and assertion of national identity that has been on show in schools in the United States in the wake of the 11th September attacks.

School boards have encouraged a more patriotic tone to lessons, national colours and the Stars and Stripes have been displayed and pupils have placed renewed emphasis on the pledge of allegiance.

As an example, in Huntsville, Alabama, pupils painted a 5,000 square feet picture of the United States flag onto a lawn outside their high school.

See also:

18 Sep 01 | Education
What did we tell the children?
17 Sep 01 | Features
Through the eyes of children
19 Sep 01 | Education
Children taught 'reality' of disaster
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