Schools guidance on the war in Ukraine
Considering the potential impact on pupils
War on Ukraine: Considerations for schools
As we all watch the news of the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine in horror, many schools will have already considered the potential impact on their pupils. Although this is not specifically Pharos’ area of expertise, a few of our client schools have been in touch to seek our guidance. This prompted us to pen what are hopefully some helpful thoughts on the broader wellbeing and safeguarding considerations that schools may wish to work into their planning in response to the unfolding events in Russia and Ukraine over the next few weeks. Many of the incidents we support often involve wellbeing and safeguarding of young people and sadly also bereavement, so we thought this experience may be helpful.
Scroll down for some links to additional resources.
War on Ukraine: School community wellbeing & safeguarding
Mental health – This situation has struck just as everyone was beginning to emerge from the Covid fog, so the impact on wellbeing of staff and pupils is likely to be even more significant. The knock-on of the energy crisis compounded by this war will put families under greater financial pressure as cost-of-living increases. Anyone in your community could be adversely affected but you could start by identifying those families (and staff) from Ukraine and Russia who may be struggling emotionally or perhaps trying to support families overseas.
Hence your safeguarding eyes and ears should be more alert than ever, ready to refer targeted support for children and adults if needed. Check-in with those identified as ‘at risk’ and direct them to support where necessary.
Schools may consider inviting staff to complete additional training in this specialist area, such as the following course developed by the UK Health Security Agency that provides Psychological First Aid training to support children and young people’s mental health during emergencies and crisis situations.
Harmful content online – Young people source news and information from different places to most adults and social media provides them with direct access to horrific, raw, desensitised footage of war.
Managing this may be something to mention in parent communications and in assemblies and the need to report harmful content, not share it.
Bullying – There is an increased risk of bullying, either in person or cyber, as the conflict divides opinion. Russian families in particular may be at risk – or feel at risk – of some abuse. Assemblies have most likely already been held to ensure the school community stays together and supports one another, stressing that this is not a war of the Russian people but of The Kremlin, and referring to this as such in all discussions may be helpful so as not to inadvertently label Russian pupils and staff with this burden.
This may need monitoring and the message updating regularly.
Positive support – Engaging the school community in some positive activity to feel they are helping will help focus the minds, have a direct impact and bring the community together positively.
This could involve refugee support via collecting much needed donations for large charities such as Red Cross, Samaritans, UNHCR, Unicef, CARE International UK, via local appeals and/or fundraising events for monetary donations to the relief effort.
Counselling – Whether you provide access to quiet spaces in school for reflection, more structured group counselling sessions, pastoral check-ins or one-to-one sessions with the school counsellor or a combination of these strategies, it makes sense to agree a structure to your approach.
Perhaps identify those considered at most risk and allocate a mentor/buddy to them who they can speak to. This avoids multiple people constantly asking them if they are ok. Have a counsellor accessible if needed for specific cases where a support plan may be necessary. Group discussion or counselling sessions may also be helpful for others who are less affected.
Bereavement – Families of pupils or staff may well be involved in the conflict or in danger and this could result in some of them having to face a bereavement.
It would be sensible to revisit any policy you have in place regarding support provided to ensure it is current and effective and ensure you are aware of any Employment Assistance Programmes in place. The following resources may also be useful:
War on Ukraine: Schools cyber security
Via the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), the UK has been warned to prepare for a heightened possibility of cyber-attacks from Russia.
All organisations, schools included, should therefore bolster their online defences…
The following identifies some practical actions you can take…
War on Ukraine: Media interest in schools
As a central hub in your community, your school may be contacted by the media for information about any fundraising campaigns and collections you might be organising. If this is the case, it would be best to provide any comments in writing rather than conduct an interview. Use the media to explain how your school is responding to this situation with a focus on ensuring the welfare of the whole school community.
If you subscribe to Pharos 24/7 incident support, then feel free to ask us for assistance.
War on Ukraine: Boarding schools
With Easter holidays on the horizon and air travel so disrupted again, it may not be possible for some children to return home. It would be advisable to plan ahead and liaise with parents sooner than later so you can discuss plans with Certified Guardians or options for residential Easter camps if necessary.
Perhaps one of the few benefits of the past two years is that this process is well exercised.
War on Ukraine: Resources for schools
Advice (for children) if you’re upset by the news – BBC Newsround
Of course, schools who subscribe to the Pharos 24/7 incident support service can call upon the support of the Pharos team at any point if you think we can assist. If you don’t already subscribe but would like to for just £1.35 per pupil on roll, more details are available here.