Resources to support classroom conversations about Ukraine

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A number of resources are available to help school staff talk to children and young people about the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The Department for Education, Children’s Commissioner, Childline and this very magazine has published articles offering insights and advice.

A blog from the DfE covers how to talk about distressing news stories and how to spot inaccurate information.

The blog signposts the Educate Against Hate website, which offers a range of resources relating to conflict and difficult conversations including a blog from Tom Bigglestone, a former head of humanities, who encourages teachers to:

  • Establish the facts: “Use trusted, reputable sources that explain the what, where, when, why and who. Don’t be afraid to challenge incorrect or misleading information.”
  • Explore a range of diverse perspectives: “Consider the different voices and perspectives represented in your class. Show solidarity with potentially marginalised voices.”
  • Be comfortable without an answer for everything: “You don’t need to have an answer for every question asked. Your role is to facilitate discussion: to challenge assumptions, correct misinformation and to protect your school’s values.”
  • Encourage students to clash ideas: “Remind students that difference of opinion is something to be embraced and debates can be respectful without becoming personal.”

Mr Bigglestone has also written in Headteacher Update on the topic of how to talk to students about the news (2021). In the article, he expands on the advice above, offering 10 tips, including focusing on what students know and engaging with parents too.

Meanwhile, in an article in Headteacher Update this week, psychologist Dr Stephanie Thornton looks at the impact that the war and burgeoning international crisis is likely to have on students and how we can respond in schools, including what we can and should say.

Her advice includes avoiding offering false reassurances, controlling our own anxiety, managing exposure to the news cycle, and how to handle difficult questions.

Elsewhere, the Children’s Commissioner for England – Rachel de Souza – has also published a blog advising that we should not hide what is happening in the Ukraine from children and young people, but support children in understanding it.

Ms de Souza, whose grandfather Simon Romanovich Teleweny was Ukranian, wrote: “If there is one thing that came out of the Big Ask survey I ran last year, it is that children care passionately about the world around them, especially other children. We should not hide what is happening, but support children in understanding it. We must remember that children can find solace in being part of a wider community that is comprehending and responding to these events.

“Children can use these experiences to find their voice and become empowered members of society.”

And Childline has also published content to support children and young people who may be worried about the crisis, including encouraging them to use sources they can trust, like Newsround, and to talk to someone they trust. Childline also reminds children that taking a break from the 24/7 news cycle is important.

Finally, NSPCC Learning has training modules for school staff and parents about how to have difficult conversations with children.


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