Keep calm, be kind and build bridges of friendship for the sake of the children

By June O'Sullivan

| 05 April 2017

In 2005, three LEYF nurseries were involved in the Edgeware Road bombings. I still remember it but the strongest memories that stay with me were of the kindness of people, the concern of parents bringing food and blankets for the staff who stayed late into the night and the letter I received from Ken Livingstone, then Mayor, who shared and supported the view that London would mourn those who lost their lives and keep their memories alive by celebrating the best in people and continue to connect people across communities. That Saturday our nursery in Lisson Green held a community party inviting everyone from the local population. It was a public display of human warmth centred on children whose futures demand that we do not allow fanaticism to seep into our lives and destroy trust.

The events in Westminster on Wednesday 22 March involved our nursery in the House of Commons. Not once did I doubt that the team would not put the children first and do everything to keep them safe. I was touched by the shared trust from parents locked out of the nursery until late into the evening. The resilience of the staff and parents was that we opened at eight the next morning and carried on.

Thinking about both incidents, I was struck by the similar responses from the new Mayor Sadiq Khan. Like Ken Livingstone, he urged that we build on London's resilience and carry on. Certainly, Thursday seemed quieter but even Southern trains ran on time.

This time communication was easier. Emails worked and the phone network was much better than in 2005. However, while the staff and parents appreciated the regular emails throughout the day and evening, it was the 7pm reassuring phone calls from staff to parents that were most soothing. Crisis and trauma needs a human response. Tell that to the humanoids.

The call for more security worried many of my team fearful that the nursery would prove a security risk. We would counter that by saying that if anything, building nurseries into our London infrastructure contributes to the humanity of people. Think of the comments of MPs locked into the Houses of Parliament with visiting school children who raised their spirits by singing. The nursery children kept people smiling as they prepared for a special nursery sleepover. We must remember the importance of children in our social infrastructure if we are to build human bridges connecting all the communities of our great city.

June O'Sullivan is chief executive of London Early Years Foundation. This blog first appeared on the LEYF website

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