Early Years Bulletin: Supporting practitioners and parents through the war in Ukraine

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Early years bulletin

09 March 2022


We have all heard and seen the distressing news and images through the media of the war in Ukraine and this may be at the forefront of your mind as you go about your daily work. But how are our young children feeling? What are they seeing/hearing and do we have the appropriate ways to respond to them and to sensitively answer any questions they might have?

Early Years education expert, Tamsin Grimmer, has written a leaflet to help us understand and have the confidence to deal with the subject of war with our young children. Please share widely with your staff teams and support each other to work with our children when appropriate to explore the questions and thoughts they have.

View the leaflet here

We also have guidance from our Portsmouth EMAS team which focuses on data relating to our city's schools, but might also provide a context for the ethnic make-up of your Early Years setting:

Looking at the most recent October Census data and using first language information which is obviously not an absolute proxy for nationality (as this conflict has made us very aware), there are currently only a handful of Ukrainian pupils in our schools and we are sure you are already supporting these families. There are, however, also over 100 Russian-speakers in Portsmouth schools and we will also need to be especially aware of any 'hate' directed at these pupils as the situation progresses. Just as Chinese pupils were targeted in the early days of COVID, there have already been reports nationally of bullying towards Russian pupils in schools.

We do not need to tell you that we must all ensure that we consistently challenge any comments directed towards our Russian-speaking pupils and use the 'prejudicial language and behaviour' (PLAB) toolkit to capture and monitor any issues. Reminding your pupils that it is governments that make decisions, not individual people and certainly not your Russian pupils, could be a helpful line to take.

In the city, there are also many, many children whose families come from countries bordering either Ukraine or Russia itself and who may also be feeling especially vulnerable, picking up on any stress that adults in their families might well be experiencing at the moment. We have almost 700 Polish-speaking pupils in Portsmouth, more than 400 Romanians, 100 Hungarian-speakers and over 150 other pupils from other neighbouring countries such as Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and Finland. The ongoing conflict will be especially 'close' for them.

In addition, we will also of course need to be extremely aware of all of our existing refugee and asylum-seeking pupils (including of course our UAMs) from Afghanistan, sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere in the world for whom this current conflict and all of the associated coverage could well be triggering their own previous or ongoing trauma. In addition to this, there are also reports of some refugees and asylum-seekers from other areas of the world now feeling 'worthless' (literally) as their own experiences may not have been previously viewed in the same empathetic light as the plight of those families fleeing across Europe this week.

Of course, all children, whatever their first language or ethnicity, may well be afraid and anxious due to the developing situation, especially since nuclear weapons have been recently thrown into the mix.

The government has published some advice and guidance on their Education Blog, Newsround has some good child-friendly advice for anyone who is feeling anxious about the news and we can recommend the British Red Cross resources if you are hoping to look at the situation regarding refugees and asylum-seekers.

Schools of Sanctuary have provided helpful guidance and resources for Parents, Carers and Teachers on Speaking with Children about the War in Ukraine.

First News and the Association of Citizenship Teaching (ACT) have provided Fact Sheets relating to this conflict.

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