Support and Information for Schools
Within this For Schools section you will find information and resources to provide support for bereaved pupils, schools and staff.
Click on the underlined links below or on the specific sections above for more information on Primary schools, Secondary schools and Specific areas of support. If you cannot find what you are looking for or want more support please ring our national helpline:
Freephone number. Some mobile providers may charge, alternatively call 01494 568 900.
Every 22 minutes a parent of dependent children dies in the UK
Up to 70% of schools have a bereaved pupil on their roll at any given time
92% of young people will experience a significant bereavement before the age of 16 years
A death, or life-limiting illness – be it of a parent, a pupil or a member of staff – can have a significant impact on the whole school community. A school which takes time to formalise a response before a critical incident or tragedy occurs, will be much better placed to cope should it ever have to be put into practice; a School Bereavement Policy will greatly help especially if a sudden or traumatic death occurs. A policy should be viewed more as a framework to work around rather than prescriptive, as every school is different and every situation unique. What is deemed appropriate will vary, as will how a school can help.
Professionals in schools have a unique role in helping grieving children and young people, as children spend a significant amount of time in school. With the right help and support, most bereaved pupils will not need professional help; what they do need is the understanding of familiar and trusted adults. Schools are therefore well placed to support a bereaved pupil.
Press play to watch the video message below from HRH The Duke of Cambridge.
When supporting a bereaved family, or informing other families of a death within a school community, parents and carers may appreciate guidance to help them respond to questions and to better understand reactions from their children. Children and young people mature at different rates and children’s understanding and responses to death are likely to be based as much on their experience of life as on their chronological age.
Communication between school, family and the community when someone has died is important and it is often difficult to know how to break the news. School communities have very active grapevines and it is better to explain sensitively what has happened, rather than say nothing.
A whole special school assembly: saying ‘goodbye’, usually delivered by the head teacher, can be used for a situation involving the death of a pupil or member of staff. The benefit of a whole school assembly is that the entire school receives the same news at the time, keeping speculation and rumour at bay. A whole school assembly may not be appropriate or wanted if it is an individual pupil who has been bereaved. The decision will be influenced by the size of the school and if the person who died was well-known to the school community. Many schools tell the class or year group most affected, and follow this up with a brief acknowledgement during assembly.
Child Bereavement UK offers support for bereaved children and young people through Bereavement Support Groups, as the adults in a family are often struggling with their own grief. The bereaved children and young people we help at Child Bereavement UK tell us what they need is easily accessible, informal support. Also, they feel more comfortable receiving this from their peers, or trusted adults other than parents and carers. Schools are ideally placed to meet this by running a Support Group. Child Bereavement UK also runs a Young People’s Advisory Group YPAG.
You may want to think about special exam consideration for pupils.
Schools also have to function within an increasingly multi-cultural society, in which various beliefs, religious and non-religious, are required to be taken into account. Respect for differing needs, rituals and practices is essential when acknowledging a death.
Remember to look after yourself, as supporting anyone, especially a child, experiencing a loss can be emotionally draining. The need for support for yourself is not an inability to cope or of professional incompetence, but a recognition that everyone needs help to carry out this demanding role. Child Bereavement UK’s national helpline is open to discuss any questions or issues you may have 0800 02 888 40. We can also signpost you to other helpful organisations.