On 22 March 2017, Westminster was the site of a sudden, unexpected attack. The heart of London, an area popular with tourists, saw loss of life and severe injuries, but also people moving to help and support one another.
This special edition of Newsthink is designed to help young people share their feelings about the attack, consider how to respond in a crisis, and explore the needs of people caught up in an incident.
Suggested age range: 14–19
Curriculum links: PSHE, Citizenship
Where were you?
On the afternoon of 22 March 2017, reports circulated of an attack around the Palace of Westminster in London. An attacker had driven a vehicle into pedestrians walking across Westminster Bridge. First reports were that two people had been killed and many more injured. The attacker, armed with a knife, ran towards the Parliament building, where he was confronted by police officers. One officer was killed. The attacker was shot dead.
Show this photo of a member of the public being treated by emergency services near Westminster Bridge.
Ask the group:
- Where were they and what were they doing when they first heard about the attack?
- What was their initial reaction?
- How did their reaction change as they learnt more detail about the incident and those affected?
Spend time talking about feelings. Allow young people to express their thoughts. Some may have a connection to the incident, such as a concern about friends or family in the area.
A group of secondary school students who were in London at the time kept in touch with each other through social networks. One told a reporter:
Our other classmates were actually on the bridge at the time. We haven’t seen them since. We’ve kept in touch via Facebook Chat and we know they’re safe … You get this innate need to find your friends and make sure that everybody’s safe.
(This quote can be played to students. It appears on the Today programme at 1:12:00.)
Discuss the need to find out that people you know are OK. List ways that you could let friends and family know that you were safe. How might you do it if you were on your own and didn’t have a working phone?
PC Keith Palmer, 48, confronted the attacker outside the Palace of Westminster and was stabbed. He later died at the scene. Media reports and colleagues have praised the actions of an MP, Tobias Ellwood, who went to the aid of PC Palmer. Other stories have emerged of members of the public giving first aid to the people run over on Westminster Bridge. Some people have said that these stories make them want to learn first aid. Do the young people agree? Talk about times that they have been surprised at their own reaction in a sudden emergency. Think of the qualities they could bring that would help and support others.
If the group expresses an interest, you can use the First aid learning for young people website to facilitate the learning of some first aid skills.
In a security alert, two things often happen that limit people’s movement. If you are close to the scene and there is a safe place, you must stay there. This is called “lockdown”. If you are outside the scene, you will not be allowed to enter the lockdown area.
Discuss lockdown. How would you remain calm and keep your spirits up? MPs had to stay in the House of Commons for hours, as did a visiting school party. They sang songs. What songs would you choose in a similar situation? What else might you have done to help you cope?
Other children were unable to catch their bus after school because the roads were closed. What might they do? Who might they go to for help? If they asked you, what would you advise?
This resource was written by P J White of Alt62 and published in March 2017.