— Eindhovens Dagblad (@ED_nieuwsfeed) June 9, 2017
After the series of terrorist attacks on European cities more schools face the question: are we willing to take the risk with a group of teenagers? On Monday, in cooperation with Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Dutch Ministry of Security and Justice, the Foundation School and Safety (SSeV) will publish a so-called ‘terror manual’ on its website.
The SSeV wants to support those schools by giving practical advice. Masja Koster of the SSeV:
“It is more necessary now than ever before, to think about foreign trips. Despite the fact that pupils are looking forward to a trip like that, schools have to ask themselves if they are capable enough to organise something like this ánd if they want to bear the responsibility.“
One example of the advice the SSeV offers: don’t take the decision yourself. Involve parents and pupils in planning. “You don’t want to take a scared class on a trip,” says Koster. Don’t just assume that you only need a minimal number of teachers. Don’t allow pupils to wonder around large cities on their own, keep the group together and make sure teachers don’t lose track.
If something were to happen, teachers need to be able to handle quickly and have someone they can contact in the Netherlands at all time. Schools need to have all contact details of parents, as well as an emergency plan to take care of nervous pupils in the Netherlands. Although most schools have already travelled this year, they are contemplating trips next year. The SSeV furthermore advises not to promise anything, because if the situation turns out to be volatile, it’s easier to cancel everything. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.
Frank Looijen, principal of the ‘Mollerlyceum’ and the ‘Zoom Mavo’ in Dutch town Bergen op Zoom experienced the nightmare twice. In March his pupils and teachers were in London, a mere fifty meters away from the terror attack on Westminster Bridge. A few months before, his students and staff were in Berlin during the attack on the Christmas market.
Is he still going to send his pupils and teachers to capital cities? It is a question that’s high on the list.
“We’re looking at good alternatives,” Looijen says, refusing to abandon school trips altogether. “As long as pupils and parents want to, we go. Except if there’s a negative travel advice from the government, in that case, all plans are off.”
Since the close calls on his trips, Looijen has made protocols on how to act:
“We’re fortunate nothing physically happened to our pupils, but what we are planning to do now, were something to happen, is to involve the scale up to the level of the municipality and to get in touch with all parties, like healthcare institutions and victim aid.“
Looijen has also made sure that communication with parents is well organised and that there are clear agreements on who keeps in touch with whom:”from the moment something happens, we email the parents straight away. And if need be, we call them, using a group of telephone operators.”
All his work on protocols has made Looijen enthusiastic about the so-called ‘terror manual’.