School postpones 'active shooter' drill after backlash from parents and media

A school in Drenthe has postponed plans to stage a mock campus shooting with real police officers after it stirred up a media storm. Parents and safety campaigners said the simulated 'active shooter' scenario at the Alfa College, a secondary school in Hoogeveen, was unnecessary and could leave pupils traumatised. 'It creates a very worrying situation that can have a huge impact on them,' Klaas Hiemstra, director of the School and Safety Foundation (Stichting School en Veiligheid). 'Children can be left severely shocked and have nightmares or sleepless nights as a result. It brings it very close to home.' The row blew up after parents were sent a letter by the school telling them that the annual safety drill would take the form of a school shooting organised jointly with the police, with officers guiding the 'hostages' to safety. One parent described the idea as 'demented' while another commented: 'Until now they've probably never thought about it, and then suddenly this fear is raised, even though the chances of it happening in this country are very small. This isn't America.' 'Realistic simulation' Head teacher Jan Berend van Wijk said pupils had been informed in advance about the drill, due to be held on Wednesday, because it was 'the first time we have done a realistic simulation of a school shooting incident.' In a statement last week the school said: 'Obviously we take the view that disasters are rare. But if something like this does occur we want to be able to take appropriate steps.' The school told RTV Drenthe the exercise would still go ahead, but at a later date once the media attention had died down. School spokeswoman Marjolein Visser said staff had been 'surprised' by the media reaction to the mock shooting, which had prompted the school to change the date. 'We feel that the storm that has blown up has meant there has not been enough focus on the exercise itself.'  More >

Deal reached on primary school teacher pay

School chiefs and teaching unions have reached agreement on a new pay deal for primary school teachers which will see all teachers being placed in a 'much higher salary scale'. Teachers will also get a 2.5% pay rise in September,  a one-off payment of 42% of their new monthly salary and a maximum bonus of €750, depending on how many hours they work, the NRC reported on Thursday. Primary school teachers have been campaigning since last October for higher pay and less pressure of work, caused, in part, by a shortage of teaching staff. The deal still has to be approved by teachers themselves. Earlier this year, the national statistics office CBS said one in five primary school teachers are now is over the age of 55 and that means the number of teachers some 10 years away from retirement has almost doubled in the past 14 years. At the same time, the number of students at teacher training colleges has slumped, the CBS said. In the 2003/04 academic year, 10,000 people were attending pabo colleges to become a teacher. There are just 4,500 students in the current academic year. The CBS says the sharp drop is due to stronger selection procedures to become a teacher.  More >

Primary school scraps gay roles in play

A primary school in Hengelo has scrapped a gay story line from an end-of-school musical to make sure a child who is a Jehovah’s Witness could participate, local paper Tubantia reports. The story originally featured a straight couple but during rehearsals the children, who are aged 11 and 12, decided it would be more fun if the protagonists were gay, the paper said. This presented Ben de Vlugt, head of the non-faith based Montessori Anniksschool with a problem, the paper says, because he wanted every pupil to participate. He realised, the paper continues, that a gay story line would prompt the Jehovah witness parents of one girl in the class to refuse to allow her to join in. ‘I know how Jehovah’s Witnesses feel about this. You can be gay but not practice being gay. The chances were that she wouldn’t be able to participate [in the musical] and I think every single child should participate in what is the final event at their school,' De Vlugt told the paper. He did not consult the girl's parents before making his decision. De Vlugt said many parents did not agree with his decision but understood his quandary. He emphasised his decision was not one against gays and for Jehovah’s Witnesses. ‘I respect everyone and this was not an easy decision. I felt like King Salomon presented with an impossible choice,’ he told the paper. The incident has now prompted Labour member Kirsten van den Hul to submit a number of parliamentary questions to education minister Ingrid van Engelshoven. Van Hul maintains that the school has not supported the idea of diversity and is not preparing its pupils to deal with society at large.  Answers to her queries are expected in three weeks’ time.  More >

Bullying in primary schools can be tackled

Only four out of 10 popular methods to combat bullying in primary schools work, according to a new report by five universities and mental health monitor Trimbos Institute. Bullying is also more widespread than previously assumed, a survey among 8,000 children showed. Three anti-bullying programmes which involved the whole class were found to be effective (PRIMA, KiVA and Taakspel) while one (Alles Kidzzz) turned out to be the best of the individual approaches. Schools are required by law to teach children about bullying but are free to chose which method to use. The report showed 30% of primary school children experience instances of bullying at school. A smaller group, 1 in 14, is bullied more than once a week. Of this group a third does not tell anyone about the bullying and 97% of these children have been bullied over several years. According to researcher Bram Orobio Castro of Utrecht University, the figures are higher than previously thought. ‘We always knew that the number would probably be a bit higher but we didn’t think bullying would be as widespread as this,’ he told RTL Nieuws. Orobio Castro says children keep quiet out of fear the bullying will get worse or because they think they are to blame. ‘They are ashamed and feel they should solve the problem themselves. They feel that it is part of life and because they don’t tell anyone they develop a damaging mindset that isn’t corrected.’ Schools are obliged by law to monitor children’s well-being annually, and this includes bullying. It is vital, the researchers say, that children tell teachers and other adults if they are being bullied. The four best scoring programmes were shown to bring down instances of bullying within a year and these need to extended and used across the board, the researchers recommend. Mandatory use is not thought to be necessary because bullying does not occur in all schools.  More >

School leaving exams start on Monday

Over 200,000 secondary school pupils in the Netherlands start three weeks of exams today as the school leaving exam season opens. On Monday, 10,447 pupils at vmbo (trade) schools will start their exam period with English and Dutch exams. The 60,600 pupils at pre-college schools (havo) kick off with physics and 41,500 pre-university (vwo) pupils face maths. The last exams - what the Telegraaf describes as 'exotic' languages such as Russian, Spanish, Arabic and Turkish -  as well as Frisian, take place on the last exam day of May 29. Repeat exams will be held in mid June.  More >