Dear Parents and Carers,

This has been a very difficult week for us all. The whole school community is stunned that something so awful could happen in our town. Although Harley wasn’t a current student at Samuel Ward Academy, many of our students and staff knew him very well and were very fond of him. Many of them had known him since primary school. There is a very deep sense of shock and loss here.

Our school values have never been more important. We all need to be aspirational in our ambition to ensure that nothing like this ever happens again in our community. We need to brave in dealing with our feelings of sadness, anger, confusion and unfairness, and not give in to the urge to speculate, spread rumours or turn our emotions on each other. Above all, we need to be compassionate, supporting each other with patience and understanding. I’ve been to Strasbourg Square to pay my respects. I have seen the floral tributes and the messages left by Harley’s friends and relatives, many of them members of our school community. We should all be proud to see the way our young people are pulling together.

There is support in place for those students who need it, through our own pastoral team and through the Mental Health in Schools Team. We have also had school nurses in school this week to work with young people and adults. Those things have helped us support students through the initial shock, but we know that grief can take time to come out. We are working with an organisation called Kooth to put in place some longer-term support, including some support for parents. I’ll confirm the dates of that soon. In the meantime, parents who would like some support on how to support their children can find some good advice here:

If students need support outside of school, we recommend contacting Kooth directly (where support can be anonymous) Kooth for Children & Young People - Kooth plc. The First Response Service is a helpline for people of all ages in Norfolk and Suffolk who need urgent mental health support. It is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and the number is 0808 196 3494. There is also the Young Minds text line which offers free, 24-7 confidential support. Details can be found here: Shout Textline | Free 24/7 Mental Health Support Via Text | YoungMinds

We are compiling a book of condolence to allow students to share their memories of Harley with each other. When we have completed that, we will give it to Harley’s family. In time, we will choose a way to commemorate Harley more permanently.

I am speaking to other school leaders locally to discuss how we can respond together to ensure that none of us ever have to experience another tragedy like this again.

Our thoughts and condolences remain with Harley’s family and friends.

Andy Hunter

Executive Headteacher