Preparing your school to respond to a sudden bereavement
Follow these steps to prepare your school and staff and enable them to support a child in the event of a sudden bereavement.
A dedicated bereavement policy explains clearly what to do in the event of an unexpected death or bereavement at school. Your bereavement policy should be reviewed regularly and communicated to all staff – including the school leadership team, governors, teachers and other members of staff – as well as members of the bereavement team.
Establish a dedicated bereavement team, who can respond quickly if a child at school is suddenly bereaved. Ensure that each member of the team is aware of and understands their role and responsibilities.
Bereavement training is strongly recommended and should be delivered to all staff. This is particularly important in primary schools, where pupils develop strong bonds with class teachers and other staff.
Use your school curriculum to introduce discussions about death, grief and bereavement. Ensure loss and bereavement are included in your PSHE programme and where possible make links to other subjects, such as religious education and English, to provide opportunities to discuss these concepts.
Ensure that resources about loss, death, grief and bereavement are available for all staff and children and accessible in class reading areas, your school library or a separate box containing these specific resources. Ensure pastoral care staff are able to signpost staff to these resources.
Keep a regularly updated list of local services that can support bereaved children.
In accordance with the families’ wishes, and respecting their right to confidentiality,ensure that appropriate staff know about any children who have been bereaved and the circumstances of the death. These pupils may require additional support and care if, at a future point in time, someone else at school is affected by a death or bereavement.
Prepare communications, such as a statement for the media, and emails/letters to parents, to be sent in the event of a sudden death.
Books to support children affected by sudden death
When someone dies suddenly it is a shattering experience, whether you are a grown up or a child. As a parent or carer, it can be particularly difficult to know what to say to bereaved children or how to behave around them. You may find these books helpful:
Someone has died suddenly is a picture book for children to read with adults after a sudden death. It uses simple language and colourful pictures to communicate important messages and encourage discussion and honesty between children and their carers. It provides straightforward information about practical issues, such as post-mortems and funerals, and provides opportunities for children to discuss their feelings and ask questions. A guide for adults who are caring for children after a sudden death is also available. Both books are available free from Sudden. Find out more.
Reading Well for children provides quality-assured information, stories and advice to support children’s mental health and wellbeing. Books have been chosen and recommended by leading health professionals and co-produced with children and families. The booklist is targeted at children in Key Stage 2 (aged 7-11), but includes titles aimed at a wide range of reading levels to support less confident readers, and to encourage children to read together with their siblings and carers. The books are available to borrow from your local library. Selected titles are also available to borrow as e-books and audiobooks. Visit your local library website to find out how to join the library and access books electronically. Find out more at reading-well.org.uk.
A list of children’s books on bereavement and grief is available on the Cruse website at www.cruse.org.uk.
James, S. 2015. The Nature of Informed Bereavement Support and Death Education in Selected English Primary Schools. EdD thesis. The University of Hull. Available online: https://hydra.hull.ac.uk/resources/hull:13626 [Accessed 17/06/2019].