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Parents hit out over Inverness school's disaster exercise

By Hazel Urquhart

Lochardil disaster
Lochardil disaster

PARENTS have criticised a school for carrying out an emergency simulation which they claim left their kids traumatised.

Lochardil Primary was one of only two in the UK selected by Unicef for the exercise last Friday. Without warning, pupils were told a month’s worth of rain had struck the city the previous night, leading to widespread flooding, road closures and blocked rail lines.

The teachers claimed other schools had been closed and many of the classrooms at Lochardil had been flooded, but the fire service was so overwhelmed they needed to care for themselves until help arrived.

Audrey Kellacher, the school’s head-teacher, said the exercise – which included a police presence, areas of the school being closed off with police tape and an overturned classroom – helped children to understand the challenges faced during a real crisis.

But for a number of parents, the emergency drill went too far.

Many took to social media to comment on the exercise and although some said their children were fine, several others said it had left youngsters upset and confused.

Speaking to the Highland News, parent Jamie Lineldin said: “They’ve done it in a way that they’re basically lying to the kids.

“The first thing that was coming out of the kids’ mouths was ‘I can’t believe they lied to us.’ And these are the teachers who are meant to be teaching them right from wrong.

“I think a lot of the parents are absolutely raging with the way they’ve done this, and for what?”

Another parent, who did not want to be named, said she had been left concerned for the welfare of her son after receiving a text message from him on Friday morning saying the school had been burgled.

“I get what they were trying to do, but the simulation of the kind of disaster that they did was never going to happen in Inverness,” she said. “It wasn’t like a fire drill, or even a terrorist drill.

“I feel there could have been a better way to approach it which was less traumatic for the children.”

Mrs Kellacher issued a letter to parents after the event, explaining the thinking behind the exercise.

“The Unicef emergency simulation was designed to provide an immersive experience that showcases the challenges Unicef faces during a real-life emergency,” she said.

“The aim of the simulation was to give children some understanding of what it is like to be in an emergency situation where their rights are not fully realised, and experience a moment where they were not in control.”

She said the school was “honoured” to have been chosen for the exercise.

It already has a Unicef silver Rights Respecting Schools Award, presented in recognition of its work on raising awareness and knowledge of rights among its pupils, and is now working towards its gold award, though she said this was not directly related to its involvement in the simulation.

Three members of staff from Unicef UK attended as part of the exercise and spoke to pupils about their work at a special assembly afterwards.

In response to concerns raised by parents, Mrs Kellacher said: “We continue to work closely with any parents and careers that expressed initial concerns to share this understanding of the entire learning experience and content, including our reasons for choosing not to share information on the work prior to the morning of the simulation.”

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