Children keep in touch with troops

THE first deployment of troops from the new £80million barracks near Woodbridge has led to anxious times for the soldiers' children.

Richard Smith

THE first deployment of troops from the new £80million barracks near Woodbridge has led to anxious times for the soldiers' children.

Boys and girls at Sandlings Primary School, close to the airfield, have seen their fathers leave for six-month tours of Afghanistan.

But now the school has created an area dedicated to life in the war-torn country, where children can learn about the deployment and receive e-blueys from their fathers.

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The youngsters had wanted to know what was happening to help them understand the dangers facing the troops.

As 10-year-old Elizabeth Copsey and her friend 11-year-old Emilie-Jane Osborne studied a world globe they talked of their anxieties.

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Elizabeth said: ''It is quite worrying and it is a bit frustrating at times, but I think it is far better that I know what is going on.''

Emilie-Jane has been at Sandlings since reception class and she said: ''I think it is probably the best school ever, the teachers are very helpful.''

Eleanor Cunningham, six, cannot wait to celebrate a belated Father's Day with her father Brian. ''It is sad that he is away, it means I don't have my dad to play with me.

''He is coming back in two weeks and I will give him breakfast in bed,'' she said.

Santina McKechnie's father Al has returned home and Santina said: ''I was very happy when he came back. He has told me stories and we have played some games.''

The school has 61% of its 186-pupil roll in Ministry of Defence families although not all of those are on duty in Afghanistan.

David Fox, headteacher, said: ''This is the first time we have had a deployment and it is certainly different for the school.

''There is no doubt there is a raised level of anxiety and we can sense this with the children and the parents. It is talked about every day if need be and our strategy is routine.

''They come into school, they enjoy the routine and the support is there. I think the children cope well although there is a lot of coming and going all the time of dads so what we provide them with is consistency at school.''

The recent Ofsted report at Sandlings highlighted the ''outstanding'' personal development for the children, and the support given by staff to families.

Rock Barracks, which opened two years ago, is home to 23 Engineer Regiment (Air Assault).

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