Schools are being encouraged to keep an open and honest dialogue with their pupils over the crisis in Ukraine and not shy away from difficult subjects.

With the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than a week old, the schools have started addressing the matter in the classroom, with fears over the implications proving an unavoidable topic of playground discussion.

And school leaders have welcomed these discussions, with teachers encouraged to be open with their pupils about the conflict and use it to guide their learning.

Eastern Daily Press: Helen Watts, vice chair of Educate Norfolk Picture: ANTONY KELLYHelen Watts, vice chair of Educate Norfolk Picture: ANTONY KELLY (Image: Archant Norfolk 2017)

Helen Watts, vice chair of Educate Norfolk and principal of Acle Academy, said the school was encouraging an open dialogue around the crisis and encouraging pupils to turn to trusted sources around the issue.

She said: "I think one issue we've found is with secondary school pupils they hear a lot of things through social media. They are seeing videos of helicopters and bombs all over TikTok and are being convinced it is going to be World War Three.

"We've been teaching them about what trusted sources are and encouraging them to think critically about the issue.

"We know that social media can lead the way in understanding, but really it is just one big game of Chinese Whispers, so we're trying to address some of these misconceptions.

"We've also been reshaping our history and geography lessons to try and give them a bit of context around what is happening, why it is happening and how to get a better understanding of it."

Eastern Daily Press: Acle Academy pupils show their solidarity with the people of UkraineAcle Academy pupils show their solidarity with the people of Ukraine (Image: Wensum Trust)

Mrs Watts said a key approach schools had been taking was promoting humanitarian messages and instilling empathy in pupils.

She said: "We have had regular assemblies about the situation because it is ever-changing and moving along, but our pupils have really been engaging with it as a topic and wanting to try and help.

"It is really important we talk about these things and it is all about not shying away from things. This generation of schoolchildren is already quite resilient having lived through a global pandemic but we need to be talking to them about what is happening, why it is happening and how they can help out if they want to.

"I think in primary schools in particular we will see quite a lot of fundraising around the issue and we're seeing that in our schools too. We have some Ukrainian students here at Acle so children are really keen to understand it and help their friends."

Already a number of schools across the region have been organising events and fundraisers to support their Ukrainian neighbours.

Among these schools is Hopton CofE Primary Academy, which has seen a number of its youngsters take their own initiative to raise funds.

This has included three pupils raising more than £1,000 selling dog biscuits while others have been selling home-made sweets.

Eastern Daily Press: Hopton pupil Lily Anne Fuller who has been taking part in a readathon for the people of UkraineHopton pupil Lily Anne Fuller who has been taking part in a readathon for the people of Ukraine (Image: Jungle PR)

Headteacher Kellie Egleton said: "Inspired by our learning, a number of our pupils decided to take action.

"So far these incredible children have raised close to £2,000. The consideration and empathy of our pupils demonstrates a maturity which far exceeds their age."

John Fisher, Norfolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, said: "Schools are using a range of strategies to support children in understanding the situation in Ukraine, giving careful consideration to children's ages and special needs.

"This includes using Newsround programmes, adjusting the curriculum to include greater understanding of the situation and via humanities; enabling children to talk about things they have seen or heard in news reports and focusing on kindness and support - the humanitarian angle.

"Many children are asking how they can help and schools are helping them organise fundraisers and collections as a positive response to the situation. This can help children to feel involved and support their well-being.

"We are supporting schools by pointing them to some key resources which may support them in helping to talk about the issues with children and young people."