Attempts to explain the inexplicable

22nd March 1996 at 00:00
The appalling slaughter at Dunblane touched a chord in every primary school. In the aftermath of the mass murder, schools searched for ways to explain the inexplicable.

Gordon Paterson, the head of Lockerbie primary, gathered staff together on the Thursday morning to ensure they realised that some pupils would want to discuss the tragedy which had left 16 pupils and their teacher dead.

"We were due to have an assembly on the Thursday morning anyway for the junior children and I tried to reassure them in a positive way without creating anxiety," he said.

Mr Paterson said the best advice he could offer Dunblane primary, in the light of his school's experience after the air disaster, was that "school routine begins to take over and you get enormous strength from the structure of the school day: once you are in a class with 30 children, you're busy and your mind is absorbed with the business of the school."

At Ysgol Maelgwyn in Llandudno, Wales, Year 6 pupils asked if they could write a letter to Dunblane primary. "Dear friends," it began "Yesterday was one of the saddest days of our lives. We could not believe what we saw on the news. We were all upset and started to cry.

"We feel this could have happened to anyone, anywhere, in any school. We used to feel safe in our school - now we are not so sure.

"We would like you to know we are thinking about you and we hope something so tragic will never ever happen anywhere again. We will pray for you in our assembly."

At Bradley Road school, Exeter, deputy head Hilary Jones, said some Year 1 pupils had wanted to talk about the incident and had understood what had occurred.

"They were obviously frightened. They were not afraid for themselves, I think they took the horrific aspects of what had happened to these young children and their teacher on board," she said.

Other schools including Devoran in Truro, Cornwall, Trosnant infants in Havant, Hampshire, and Ysgol Gelli in Canaervon, adopted a low-key approach in order not to frighten the younger pupils.

Alan Roberts, head of Ysgol Gelli, said: "I was wary of mentioning what had happened at Dunblane at the whole school assembly.

"I mentioned we had experienced a tragedy at a school in Aberfan which had involved children some time ago at the same time in the morning and they seemed to understand. The little ones said their parents had told them about it. "

At the Friday assembly of Trosnant pupils said a prayer for all the unhappy parents.

Lee Sutcliffe, head at Dudley first school, in inner-city Bradford, on the fringe of a council estate, said sadly many of its pupils already saw violence as part of their lives.

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