A SCHOOL which was caught up in the London terror attack has paid its thanks to the security services after all of its pupils returned home safely.
Fifty-three year 6 pupils and seven teachers from St John and St Francis Primary School were on a tour of the Houses of Parliament when a terrorist mowed down dozens of people on Westminster Bridge and tried to storm the palace.
(The scenes after the attack in Westminster yesterday)
The pupils, who had just watched parliamentary speeches, were heading back to the central chamber when the attack unfolded, and they were kept in the chamber by the security services.
Four people, including police office Keith Palmer, 48, and the attacker, were killed in the attack, with dozens more recovering in hospital.
The attacker has been named by police as Khalid Masood.
(PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the attack)
The group was locked in the chamber for around three hours, but kept spirits high by singing songs and around three hours later, the pupils were escorted out of the building by police.
Overjoyed parents were reunited with their little loved ones at 11pm last night.
Now, the school plan to bring in emotional support councillors for the children.
Now, the headteacher and deputy headteacher have paid their thanks to the ‘brilliant’ security services.
In a letter to parents, headteacher Lisa Farley said: “I am writing to you with relief and thanks that our children have arrived safely back from their visit to London today.
“The dedication and professionalism of the staff at St Johns and St Francis shone through today as these tragic events unfolded.
“The first priority of staff was to ensure the safety and well being of the pupils, and this was managed with sensitivity and understanding at all times.
“The pupils have been protected from the enormity of these events but we acknowledge that they will discover more information in the days to come. For this reason we have arranged for emotional support practitioners to be available in school tomorrow.
“The children have demonstrated their maturity, emotional intelligence and bravery today which makes us all very proud.
“They even sang in the central lobby at Parliament, which brought a sense of peace and comfort to everyone around them.
“I have been overwhelmed by the support and encouragement provided by the community at this challenging time. I feel privileged to be the headteacher of this wonderful school.
“I would also like to extend my thanks to everyone at school who managed everything so well.
“They all worked relentlessly throughout the afternoon and evening, providing regular communications and support for parents and the wider community.
“Thanks also go to the Salvation Army who provided much needed support and refreshments. Berrys coach service were very helpful in communicating the location of the coach to parents and in providing additional drivers for the return journey.
“My final thanks go to The Bath and Wells Multi Academy Trust who responded swiftly and provided support to staff, parents and governors and helped us to liaise with agencies throughout this time.
“I am very grateful that our children are safe and would like to once again acknowledge how proud I am of our staff, parents and pupils for such a positive community response to this situation.”
The pupils sang Easter hymns during the lockdown.
Alexis Piper, deputy headteacher, was one of the teachers on the trip, and praised the pupils and the emergency services.
“The tour guards were showing us round, just finished watching parliamentary speeches and made our way back down to the central chamber. We didn't need to go anywhere, we were in the central chamber which was the safe lock down space.
“We were well shielded from what was going on.
“No one was really sure what was going on. People back at school probably knew more than we did. Security services were brilliant at keeping us calm.
“We just followed their instructions.
“We were escorted by the police to Lambeth Bridge and from there they provided an emergency shuttle bus back to your coach who was waiting for us about a five minute drive away.
“They (the pupils) were still excitable and looking forward to the prospect of a Burger King on the way home. They were well shielded from what was happening and didn't know a great deal other than that their day had been interrupted.
“For most of the afternoon they had very little to do other than MP spotting and singing.”
"There was a joke competition, charades and of course the singing which has been widely reported nationally, even internationally."
Parent Christine Clapham: “My husband rung me and asked if I had heard from the school, I had seen something on Twitter earlier in the day but he asked me if I had seen the news.
“I was totally shocked but I must say the school have been fantastic.
“The teachers were amazing and made sure the children were safe. The children returned home around 10.45pm and we all hit McDonalds as many of them had not eaten.
“The school is a happy environment. They made sure the children were protected from what was going on – they heard some things over the radio but the school did a good job.
“My son William said his teacher Mrs Walsh had become upset because she wanted to get the children out and bring them home.
“He asked if we could go via Sainsburys this morning and pick up flowers – he chose the brightest bunch to brighten her day."
The guide who was giving the tour to the children in the Houses of Parliament said: "The children were really well behaved during the lock down, and used the time to chat to MPs.
"They stayed calm and particularly enjoyed speaking to MP Calum Kerr," she said.
MP Ian Liddell-Grainger says he is ‘shocked and horrified’ by the London terror attack and has appealed to his constituents to be extra-vigilant while visiting the capital or any major city.
He said Wednesday’s incident, which followed similar attacks in Nice and Berlin, showed extremists were adopting a new tactic of randomly targeting members of the public.
“The implications of this are simply too dreadful to contemplate,” he said.
“What it amounts to is that any one of us could be in their sights at any time – though clearly there is a higher theoretical risk in large centres of population.
“The only response to that is for all of us to exercise much more vigilance whenever we find ourselves in such places.”
WE MUST BE VIGILANT, SAYS MP
Mr Liddell-Grainger, MP for Bridgwater and West Somerset, said no-one should interpret Wednesday’s incident as a signal not to travel to London or any large city.
“If we allow ourselves to be cowed into cutting our travel plans it will mean the terrorist has won,” he said.
“We just have to accept that with the world in its current state there are some who are prepared to do completely unthinkable things to others as part of their perverted mission.
“With that thought in our heads we have to be more vigilant, more alive to any potentially threatening situation – and more ready to alert the authorities whenever we notice anything suspicious.”
MPs are returning to business in London today including our own Somerset MPs.