Assembly point - Breaking the news

20th March 2009 at 00:00
Major world events such as terrorist attacks can be shocking for adults, but don't be afraid to discuss them with children

News can be depressing. Recent weeks have seen a deluge of reports on global recession, Jade Goody's battle with terminal cancer and, most recently, a teenage gunman opening fire on a school in Germany. While the facts may shock them, dealing with this kind of news is an important lesson to teach children and makes a good primary assembly.

You might want to start by referring to specific incidents, maybe even showing the front page of various newspapers or video footage of news. Tell the pupils these are important facts to know about a story, but some things they hear might be a bit scary or make them feel worried. Tell your pupils that some stories can make them feel sad, but they are not the only ones and it's OK to have those feelings.

Reassure them that upsetting events often make the news because they don't happen often and this is why they are reported in the first place - they are rare. It is incredibly unlikely that what they're reading about or watching might happen nearby.

A problem shared is a problem halved - have they heard this saying before? It can also be applied to feelings about the news: tell your pupils to discuss the stories with their parents or friends. If they like computers, they could also chat about it on an online message board (BBC Newsround runs a good one). Many people worry about what they have seen or heard on the news, but we all feel better when we know that we're not the only one worried. Say that they could talk to their teacher about it - maybe they could have a class discussion that would help them understand the issue.

Tell pupils that if they're having nightmares or trouble sleeping because of something they've heard in the news that they should tell their parents. Talking about nightmares or even drawing pictures of them may help them to confront their fears. They could surround themselves with things that make them feel secure at night - even if it is an old teddy bear they hide from their mates. Last of all, get them to balance the news - if they hear a sad story, then try and read a happy one before they go to bed.

Remind pupils that school is probably one of the safest places to be. Depending on the age group, you could tell them that changes were made to school security after the Dunblane tragedy in 1996, when a man broke into a primary school and killed 16 children and a teacher. Since then, schools have been given special money by the Government, which they can only spend on making their buildings safer.

Go through each of the things they can see in their day-to-day school life and show photos of them in and around your school: walkie talkies so teachers can keep in touch with each other; fewer entrances to the school (most schools only have one way in - often with full-time receptionists); identity cards for pupils and teachers and special passes for visitors; swipe cards to get in and out of the building; CCTV cameras to check on playgrounds and corridors; and higher fences and walls, often with barbed wire on top. Tell your pupils that if they ever feel uncomfortable at school, any teacher will be happy to speak to them about what security the school has got.

End the assembly by saying that the news gives us important facts about what is happening in the world and it's good to care about it. But reassure pupils by giving them tips on how to stay safe. Tell them about the three Ws: always tell your parents WHERE you are going, WHO you are going with and WHEN you will be home. If they follow these rules there is little chance that anything bad can happen to them

RESOURCES

- For news from pupils' perspective: www.firstnews.co.uk

- For news based lessons: http:news.bbc.co.ukcbbcnewshiteachersdefault.stm

- CBBC Newsround: http:news.bbc.co.ukcbbcnewsdefault.stm.

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