Sir: Schools throughout the land responded in their various ways to last Wednesday's tragedy at Dunblane. Some, (mistakenly, in my view) chose not to mention it openly to their pupils. What messages their silence conveyed I do not know. Some chose to deal with the subject on an individual basis, with teachers speaking to children as and when the need for reassurance manifested itself. I respect that.
Over a number of years and in three schools as a headteacher I have had, with my colleagues, to deal with tragedy in several forms. Children, parents and members of staff have died, or have suffered grievous loss. Accidents have happened. And, last week, evil visited Dunblane.
It would be impossible to lay down general guidelines for responding to human grief. On each tragic occasion my instinct has been to do the impossibly difficult thing, and to talk first and simply with the children in the family atmosphere of assembly, so that we could all respond immediately and as a community to those painful events. This has enabled teachers subsequently to respond to children's sadness, confusion and fear, in conversation with class groups and with individuals.
Of course we must shield our children as far as possible from pain and violence. However, we must also face our responsibilities in acknowledging our shared loss and bewilderment in the face of tragedy. Children receive more comfort from our openness and realistic reassurance than from our well-meaning attempts to give complete answers.
St Swithun's Junior School