Teaching about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and events happening there

Published: 8th March 2022

Teaching about the Russian invasion of Ukraine and events happening there

The events of the last few days appear to have come out of nowhere to many people, especially children. While tensions have existed in the region for some time Russia’s decision to attack Ukraine was without provocation.

To have war return in such a way to the edges of Europe is very distressing for many of us, especially as we empathise with the Ukrainian people caught up in such brutality. There are lots of questions to ask about what is happening, including: how did it happen; should we have seen it coming; what can we do to help those suffering; what can we do to support those Russians that want to end the war; and will it lead to a war that could affect us all?

For many young people this might be the first war that they are aware of. However, while all of these questions are valid and young people’s concerns must be taken seriously, we must also be aware that as educators we cannot provide answers to all these questions, especially as this is a daily changing situation.

In 2007 the HA produced the T.E.A.C.H. report about Teaching Emotive And Controversial History. In the report are important guidance, considerations and approaches to exploring some of the difficult emotions that may arise while discussing the current events in Ukraine, Russia and NATO.

As professionals we must be aware to help the young people in our care to understand that many of the issues are complex, both new and old, and changing. There is an opportunity to introduce new historical knowledge, but only if we are clear that this is something that perhaps we are also investigating for the first time and that it may all raise further questions.

After two years of Covid there is a risk that children’s anxiety is further increased if current events are raised, so any discussion should bear that in mind. Guidance on how to handle that is also here.

For children in primary school and the lower years of Key Stage 3 it might simply be a case of exploring the moral issues of helping those affected by the conflict rather than trying to address some of the larger geopolitical issues. For others it might be an opportunity to broaden knowledge of wider European and global history – however, all of this must be handled with care and an awareness that all conflicts raise further complexities.

During this particular set of world-changing events historical knowledge is important to help us unpick and interpret some of what is happening, along with enabling us all to approach discussing this conflict. It may also help people to respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Collated here are some of the resources that different organisations and individuals have put together to help educators and young people explore and manage this continually unfolding current event. We may add to it when appropriate resources are brought to our attention.

Please note: links to other websites will open in a new window/tab. The Historical Association is not responsible for the content of external websites. 

Primary children, KS3-aged children and approaching sensitive issues

History, politics and citizenship teaching

Cold War background

What is happening in Ukraine

Accessible news materials recommended by GEBG educators for use with students