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Rallying the home front

SCHOOLS in the RAF Odiham area have been doing all they can to make life as smooth as possible in the build-up to the war with Iraq.

SCHOOLS in the RAF Odiham area have been doing all they can to make life as smooth as possible in the build-up to the war with Iraq.

Headteachers joined forces to issue a statement to parents as the threat of war loomed.

About 35% of pupils at Mayhill County Junior School in The Bury, Odiham, are from RAF families.

Headteacher John Gawthorpe said: “There are children and families in our school living with the tension of the threat of conflict and we must all be supportive and sensitive for them.

“Our military families are used to being without a parent who is on service abroad, sometimes for long periods, but the current speculation and press coverage is an added pressure to those left behind.

“We need to be sensitive to the children’s anxiety and aware of any changes in their behaviour or performance at school.

“Sometimes it is difficult for young children to make sense of the events around them and they often react differently in a school situation.

“Equally, however carefully we adults think we conceal our worries, children are adept at picking up the signs.”

Mr Gawthorpe said the school had also made its computer suite available to RAF families before and after school time so they can e-mail loved ones.

“We can at least try to keep families in touch and let our service personnel know we are thinking of them,” he said.

The school has also opened its staff room as a drop in centre for RAF Odiham families who want to ‘chill out’ away from the base.

Hart Council leader Robert Benford, whose farm overlooks RAF Odiham, said: “Obviously the topic of conversation at the moment is what’s going on at the base.

“But to be honest there isn’t much activity at the moment because they have about 650 personnel in the Gulf and that is a huge dent in their population.

"The RAF personnel spend a huge amount of time away all the time.

“This is getting a bit more serious but it is pretty much business as usual in terms of always being off somewhere.

“Obviously the families at the base are very worried but it’s nothing new to them either.

“I don’t think they are any more worried than when they went off to Afghanistan, because that is a nasty place as well.”

Odiham town centre manager Peter Fountain said: “I think the general concensus is that people are tending to go against the idea of war and I think that is the same feeling here in Odiham.

“Of course we will back the troops going off to do the job but do we really have to go to war — is that the answer?

“I just hope no-one loses their life — but that’s naïve.”


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