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EDITIONS
Monday, 9 September, 2002, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Soham schools remember girls
Soham Village College
The schools were sealed off after the caretaker's arrest
Two white doves have been released by pupils in memory of classmates Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman.

Children in Soham have returned to school on Monday for the first time since the deaths of the two girls.

In a special assembly at St Andrew's school, where the 10-year-olds were pupils, teachers and children released the doves as a symbol of peace and remembrance.

Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman
Head teacher Geoff Fisher told pupils that Jessica and Holly "will always be with us"

Prayers were said by the vicar of St Andrew's church in Soham, Tim Alban Jones, in an assembly attended by the parents of Holly and Jessica.

A spokesperson for Cambridgeshire County Council said that the assembly was "about the need for a fresh start, but obviously not forgetting Holly and Jessica".

"The children were fine. There might have been the odd snuffle but there were no tears. It was amazing."

Headteacher Geoff Fisher told pupils that the two girls "will always be with us in our hearts and in our minds".

Jessica Chapman's mother, Sharon, has now returned to her job at the school as a learning support assistant.

Anxieties

Pupils returning to two schools in the village will be able to talk to teachers or counsellors about any anxieties following the deaths.


You need to draw a line between being sympathetic and being over-protective

Phillip Hodson, psychologist

But teachers are hoping to make the return as normal as possible in an effort to help everyone deal with what happened.

Spokesman for Cambridgeshire County Council Bob Pearson said everyone was hoping for an "ordinary return under extraordinary circumstances".

"Clearly Holly and Jessica are going to be in everyone's thoughts always but the school needs to move on and the community needs to move on," he said.

"The start of term and getting children back to school is a major landmark for Soham."

At the neighbouring secondary school, Soham Village College, the beginning of term is being staggered so that maximum support can be given to pupils.

Many of the school's new pupils will be coming up from St Andrew's and the school wants to make sure there are enough teachers and independent counsellors around to help them if necessary.

Strength

Among the pupils due back at Soham Village College this week are Oliver Wells, 12, and Alison Chapman, 14, the brother and sister of the two girls.

Howard Gilbert, the head of Soham Village College, said: "The view of the parents of both children is that they want to try and get back to normal routine for the sake of their other children.

"The example they are showing is really giving strength to all of us."

The children will have to walk past the home of the school's former caretaker Ian Huntley, who is charged with murdering the girls, and his girlfriend Maxine Carr, who is charged with attempting to pervert the course of justice.

Maxine Carr was an assistant in Holly and Jessica's class at St Andrew's last term.

The house, which is next to Soham Village College, has been covered with hoardings so it will not be clearly visible to pupils.

Officials at Cambridgeshire County Council hope the return to school will be low-key and the media have been asked to stay away from the area.

Over-protective

Teachers at the schools returned to work early and for the past two weeks have been preparing for the new term, receiving guidance on the best approach to take, as well as counselling if they have wanted that.

But what do psychologists believe to be the right approach?

Phillip Hodson, who is a fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) says there is a need for a mixed approach.

"I would not make any assumptions and not approach it as if everyone is terminally wounded. Some people will be fine," he said.

"You need to draw a line between being sympathetic and being over-protective.

"There will be emotions that are hard to handle and people need to accept that what has happened has damaged the community.

"You need to acknowledge the primary emotions such as anger, anxiety and fear that people feel."

He said teachers might find that children behave badly or show signs of depression and should ask them if they would like to see a counsellor.

He said he was confident the school would be able to move on: "Children can survive terrible things.

"We are changed by what has happened, but it's not baggage, it's luggage."


Parents must not over-react to the latest developments in the hunt for Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman, a leading child psychologist warnsHow to explain
What to tell your children about Holly and Jessica
See also:

30 Aug 02 | England
27 Aug 02 | England
19 Aug 02 | Education
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