Education & Family

Ann Maguire stabbing: Corpus Christi 'right to stay open'

Floral tribute at school
Image caption Staff and pupils need above all to express their feelings about what happened, say experts

The decision to keep open a Leeds school where a teacher was stabbed to death in front of pupils on Monday has been welcomed by experts.

Association of School and College Leaders president Ian Bauckham told BBC News: "The best part of 1,000 young people have been traumatised and shocked.

"Simply to abandon them at home, when their parents may be at work is not sensible.

"Above all they need to talk," he said.

For Lucie Russell, of the mental health charity Young Minds, opening the school as usual will give students a feeling of safety and structure in the aftermath of the trauma.

'Completely unsafe'

"The main thing is that their whole world has been completely rocked," she said.

"The whole world has become completely unsafe and the whole community will have been affected - not just pupils in the school.

"The students need a normal structure to help them deal with that feeling and to show that the incident hasn't changed the world permanently."

It would however be "a stretch" to behave as if nothing had happened, said Ms Russell.

The school needed strike a balance, she added, opening as usual but giving pupils and staff the chance to express grief and shock.

This could take the form of special assemblies, one-to-one counselling and "open public spaces where they can express their feelings, talk and cry, or - for those who don't find it easy to talk - write, draw and put up pictures, open places where anyone can go in and express themselves".

Ms Russell added that although staff may feel they had to be brave for the pupils, it was important they also received support.

"If the teachers don't get the support they need, they are going to find it very hard to support the pupils," she said.

Mr Bauckham, a head teacher in Kent, warned that some teenagers may need help for months to come, particularly those who had witnessed the stabbing.

"Seeing someone murdered in front of you is not an easy thing for anyone to handle," he said.

'Ripple effect'

"Some may appear to be fine immediately afterwards - but a year on they may go off the rails and need support.

"It can take a teenage mind, months, even years to process a traumatic event, such as this."

Ms Russell added that even though those who had seen what had happened would need the most support, there could be a "ripple effect", which might affect other young people in the community who may be themselves depressed or vulnerable.

"So many children and young people will be touched by this even if they are not at this school," he said.

Both experts emphasised the need for a long-term plan for pupils, teachers and other staff, which will involve the school, the community and local mental health services.

Mr Bauckham said the strong tightly knit Catholic community surrounding the school would be an enormous help.

Ms Russell said staff and pupils could draw on help from charities such as Childline, the Samaritans and The Site as well as child and adolescent mental health services within the local NHS.

Leeds Community Healthcare NHS Trust said it was ready to step up emotional and psychological support for staff and students at the school.

"In light of this tragic incident, we are already in discussions to identify what additional needs may be required to support students at this difficult time," it said in a statement.

"We anticipate this may mean providing rapid access to appointments and priority access for students both in the immediate term and in the weeks and months ahead."

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