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Crawley College ‘honoured and humbled’ by special visit from children of Chernobyl

It’s the simplest things that can put the biggest smiles on children’s faces.

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That was the lesson for healthcare and childhood studies students at Crawley College last week, as they discovered when they spent a morning with children from Chernobyl.

The students entertained the children, aged from seven to 12, with a number of hands-on activities – from painting to football – and in return were treated to beaming smiles, hugs and songs.

Every year, the children affected by the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster visit Sussex for four weeks as a respite break thanks to the charity ‘Friends of Chernobyl’s Children’.

And for the past seven years, students and staff at Crawley College have been working with the charity – providing fun activities as well as fundraising support.

Last year the college raised more than £1,800 for the charity – enough to sponsor two boys to come to the UK this summer.

Lecturer Kirsty Robinson has spearheaded the college’s involvement since 2012. She said:

“Although it has been more than 30 years since the Chernobyl disaster, it still has a massive impact on families from the area.

“For some, they have suffered health problems but many families live in abject poverty as a result of the disaster. The area has never recovered economically and it is hard to imagine what life is like for these children.

“For us, it is humbling. For our students, they have an opportunity to learn about the children and how their lives can be transformed.

“We have the honour and privilege of meeting some truly special young people. It is remarkable.”

Crawley College student Shannon Wilson added:

“I think we all enjoyed the morning with the children from Chernobyl.

“I’ve learnt a lot and I have a lot more knowledge and understanding about how they live, but they are still so happy. I think it puts a lot of things into perspective.”

Sheila Nash is the co-ordinator the Mid-Sussex group for the Friends of Chernobyl’s Children.

She said:

“All of us involved with FOCC Mid Sussex are really grateful for the wonderful support the Crawley College staff and students have given us over the years – both the fun activities they provide for our kids each summer and the amazing fundraising effort last year, which will more than pay for our little twins’ visit this summer and some towards the next year.

“It’s so good that both our children and the Crawley students benefit so much from the link we have created.”

Coronavirus

West Sussex refuses to support Crawley schools decision of NOT fining parents for keeping children absent

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September seems to creeping ever closer and with it comes the supposed return to school for children across the town.

But with the news that parents ‘must’ send their children back to school come the start of the new school year, also came the news that one head in paticular had gone on record to say he would not fine any parent who kept their child at home.

Head of St Wilfrid’s Michael Ferry was interviewed on breakfast television where he stated that he would not fine a parent. This then led to a whole debate about who was right and what the right decision should be.

Now West Sussex County Council has added to this furore by refusing to support a decision to not fine a parent made by any head teacher or school in Crawley.

In a statement a West Sussex County Council Spokesperson said:

“We welcome the plan for all children to return to the classroom in September after, what has been for many, a lengthy absence.

“We recognise that some children may be anxious about returning to school and will work closely with our schools to help them prepare children and build the confidence of parents  and carers in the plans for a safe and managed return.

“We will continue to work with schools to engage with and support parents and carers in getting their children back into school before considering issuing penalties for poor attendance. Issuing fines for non-attendance is always a last resort.”

The lack of apparent support from the county council shows an ever growing divide on decisions being made around the ongoing problems with the coronavirus.

Responding to the comments from West Sussex, Michael Ferry said:

“The guidance allows head teachers as far as they can to make local decisions to meet the needs of their school communities.  If one of those decisions happens to be that we are not going to fine people for something that isn’t their fault then I would expect the local authority to support the headteachers in doing so.

If only 10% turn up when we reopen then I would say I have failed because I have not got across the message about what measures we are taking to protect our students.”

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