School children in France are to be given drills on what to do in the event of a terrorist attack, under new guidelines issued by the Government.
Children as young as three will take part in three exercises, the first a simulation of an intruder into their school, Le Figaro has reported. Children will be given a signal by their teachers, upon which they are expected to climb under their desks and remain silent.
The schools are expected to have carried out the first exercise by the time schools break for their next holiday, although some have already carried out one drill.
The programme has provoked a mixed reaction from parents, some of whom criticised their school for not making the children safe enough.
Alison, the mother of an eight-year-old girl said: “If there is an intrusion, I don’t think our children will be protected.”
Cecile, whose daughter took part in the exercise earlier this week said: “I was shocked to learn that in our school the children were told to line up facing the windows, there was no attempt to hide them.”
Others, such as Angie, mother to six-year-old Sasha, 6, welcomed the approach, saying: “It’s really sad that we have to accustom such young children to this type of exercise. But unfortunately, in the years to come, they will have to live with the threat of terrorism.”
Maureen, who was at the Bataclan on November 13 when it was attacked by jihadi terrorists, said that the drill was necessary because “children should understand the situation they are facing and the importance of responding quickly in case of danger.”
School staff also have mixed feelings on the exercises.
Education assistant Jessica took part in a simulation with a group of 8 to 10-year-olds on Thursday, but said she regretted that it was not “clearly explained” to the children that they were drilling for an intruder attack.
“Their teacher only said that it was ‘in case of trouble’,” she said, even though the children were trying to find out more. She believed that keeping children in the dark may worry them more.
However, child psychologist Stéphane Clerget said that for younger children, especially those aged 3-5, it was better not to fully explain the situation. “We can simply tell them, ‘now let’s play the king of silence, and you go hide under the table.’
“But for the majority we must make sense of the exercise, and not hesitate to answer questions from the children. Children will be able to understand what is at stake.”