'Keep adult grief for the adult world'
"Let's take our lead from the children and try to keep adult grief for the adult world." That is the message from Gordon Jeyes, director of education services in the new Stirling Council, as pupils and staff went back to Dunblane primary today (Friday).
In an exhausting and harrowing week, Mr Jeyes and Graeme Young, Central Region's director of education, had attended the funerals of 16 children and their teacher.
The image of Ben Vallance, one of 12 injured pupils, running around his hospital ward during the Queen's visit to the city last Sunday was an important one to hold onto temporarily in the long haul to recovery.
Staff at Dunblane were "wrung out", Mr Jeyes said, but he praised their "magnificent fortitude and inner strength" and the support they gave each other. "Their first thoughts have always been for the parents and the children, and the job of the authority is to stand unobtrusively by their side to step in if we are needed," Mr Jeyes said.
Twelve extra staff, some from the supply lists, others with expertise in learning support and some former teachers, have been drafted in. Additional secretaries, janitors and auxiliaries are being posted. A support co-ordinator will be on call if help is required and psychologists will be based at the school. Extra telephone lines are being installed.
Mr Jeyes acknowledged that parents and staff might be confused and uncertain about what action they expected the council to take. He pledged there would be "maximum flexibility. We have got to be prepared to change our plans eight, nine, ten times if necessary."
Stirling is unique in Scotland in having a children's committee instead of an education committee. As well as taking a lead from the children, "let us also take our lead from Dunblane", Mr Jeyes said.
"That does not mean reviewing school security or school lets, although that is important and must be done, but it means celebrating the collective strength and the communal traditions in Scottish education which have been so well exemplified by the events of last week."
He knows progress will be slow. "It's like carrying water in your hands. By the time you have deposited it, there are only a couple of drops in the bucket when what you need to do is to fill it."