Guidance: Miriam’s Vision Sensitive Issues
Miriam Hyman was killed in the 7/7 London bombings, so Miriam’s Vision inevitably contains some sensitive material concerning loss of life, bereavement and extremist violence.
- When teaching Miriam’s Vision it is advisable to provide the head of year and the Child Protection Officer with an outline of the topics being covered, with which classes and at what times.
- Information should be exchanged with the Child Protection Officer of any learner identified as vulnerable, for example bereaved, traumatised or affected by extremism. They and their parent or guardian should be informed of the topics to be discussed and offered an opt-out of a part or an entire Scheme of Work deemed to be upsetting. (So far, evaluation shows that learners who were recently bereaved were the only ones identified as “vulnerable” across four schools. In every case the Child Protection Officer and the parents / guardians expressed confidence in the suitability of all Miriam’s Vision materials and there was no case made for withdrawal either before or after delivery.)
- There may be times when sensitivities relate to culture rather than religion. It is important to recognise the distinction, and that cultural diversity is embraced within Miriam’s Vision.
- If there is reason to believe that discussion is erring on the side of making individuals feel uneasy or uncomfortable, consider ways of how the learning might continue, for example by taking an alternative route, a different approach, or by asking learners to suggest different viewpoints. Feedback would be appreciated.
- When learners express controversial opinions it would be advisable to probe if these have been “picked up” rather than thought through by the individual. In which case this may be questioned with sensitivity.
- Should extremist political views be expressed in the classroom, protocol requires the teacher to address this in line with school policy as a potential child protection issue.
- Classroom strategies to be considered:
- Redirecting the discussion towards the positive foci of Miriam’s Vision
- Providing a historical and / or global context around terrorism (See Add-ons / “Terrorism: What? When? Where?”)
- Exploring the nature of risk (See Add-ons / “Risk / Benefit”)
- Learners may be encouraged to discuss what they learn with family or friends (particularly those who have personal knowledge and experience of traumatic events) and share this with the class. Learners themselves will be sufficiently removed in time from the events of 7/7 so the chances of a direct link are minimal. However, learners may have directly or indirectly been affected by extremist violence so an awareness of their support networks can help.
- If anything is raised during a lesson that presents cause for concern about the safety of a child, it is advisable to follow school policy and report this to the Child Protection Officer.
A Safe Classroom Environment
A safe classroom environment places value upon explorative learning, constructive criticism, questioning and discussion while ensuring safety for vulnerable, marginalised or traumatised learners.
To achieve this:
- Make it clear from the outset that whilst Miriam’s Story is about a negative event, personal response can include being positive and resilient, inclusive and empathetic. (This also means discouraging a culture of blame and stereotyping defined as unfairly labelling all individuals in a group as having the same characteristics based on factors such as age, sex, race, religion, etc, for example, “All elderly people have disabilities”.)
- Make learners aware that, as no assumptions are made about them, their experiences or knowledge, they are expected to give the same respect to others in the class.
- Make learners feel comfortable to ask questions, discuss views and experiences whilst being aware that:
- They also listen to the views of others with respect, dignity, kindness and patience.
- They use inclusive and positive language in discussion.
- They back their opinions with reason / rationale / evidence.
- Quieter learners are encouraged to participate and express their views.
- Trust is nurtured. Questions can be asked privately if desired, outside class contact time or via a “question box”.
- Learners know that they can seek advice or help from the Child Protection Officer, other teacher or other support network if there are issues that worry them.