As some schools reopened on 1st June following weeks of coronavirus closures, it is highly likely that many teachers and pupils will be returning having experienced a bereavement. This may be someone in a pupil’s family or friendship group who has died, or someone within the school itself, such as a teacher, a caretaker or dinner lady, or even another pupil.
With more than 37,000 Covid-19 mortalities to date, these deaths may be as a direct result of the virus, or it may be because of another illness, an accident, or through suicide or homicide.
Prior to the pandemic, many schools already felt ill equipped to deal with bereavement within the school community – and now face having to manage the issue of death and loss on a large scale, as well as providing support to grieving children on an individual level.
For this reason, Winston’s Wish – a UK charity that provides bereavement support to children, young people and the adults who support them – is offering free online bereavement training for teachers and has worked in partnership with NAHT (The National Association of Head Teachers) to produce a new schools bereavement policy template.
Suzie Phillips, Head of Clinical Governance and Professional Development at Winston’s Wish explains: “The demand from teachers and school leaders, looking for support in managing bereavement when schools re-open, has never been so high. Concerns we are hearing range from ‘how do we tell the children that their teacher has died from Covid-19’, to ‘how can we safely support a grieving child in line with social distancing regulations’. These trainings and resources will provide essential support to school staff handling bereavement, as they plan to return from lockdown.”
Free online bereavement training for teachers
The free online bereavement training, written by Winston’s Wish, draws on the charity’s many years of experience in supporting bereaved children.
It will help teachers and school staff to understand how grief affects a child or young person and how they can help them to cope with their grief.
Two online courses are available, aimed at both primary and secondary schools, and can be accessed here https://www.winstonswish.org/bereavement-training-courses-schools/. The first course is an introduction to childhood bereavement and the second course explains some of the ways supporting adults can help.
“While the courses are designed for schools, they would be useful for anyone who works with bereaved children”, adds Phillips.
New schools bereavement policy template
In partnership with NAHT (The National Association of Head Teachers), Winston’s Wish has produced a new schools bereavement policy template that schools can download and adapt for their individual circumstances.
The policy provides effective support to pupils and staff for before and after bereavement, and covers both expected and unexpected deaths. It covers policy (such as PSHE) and procedure, safeguarding, roles and responsibilities, with step-by-step guidance on what to do, and information for further support.
The purpose of the example policy is to support settings to develop their own policy that will support children, families and staff in school when a death in the school community has occurred and in doing so to be aware of, and sensitive to, individual, family, cultural and religious factors that influence people’s responses to both death and suicide.
It is recommended that all education settings have a bereavement policy that will enable appropriate and effective responses to be made in the event of a death within the school community.
To access the simple to adapt example bereavement policy template visit https://www.winstonswish.org/schools/
“Sadly every school is likely to be touched by bereavement at some point. We’ve always known that being prepared in advance for such an event helps schools to respond in the best way possible. Over the last few months, over 37,000 people have tragically lost their lives to Coronavirus. This means that pupils and school staff will have lost grandparents, parents and even members of their own school community. We know that schools will have a vital role to play in supporting these pupils and their families. We are pleased to have been able to work closely with Winston’s Wish to produce guidance that we believe our members will find invaluable.”
James Bowen, The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT)
Bereavement within the school system
Coronavirus-aside, on average every 1 in every 29 children will experience the death of a parent by the age of 16 – which is one in every UK classroom.
“It’s vital – and even more so now”, says Fergus Crow, CEO of Winston’s Wish, “that schools have a bereavement policy in place, and that teachers and staff understand how to support the grieving children and young people in their school.”
Teaching professionals looking for further advice and guidance about bereavement issues within the school community are advised to call the Winston’s Wish Freephone National Helpline on 08088 020 021, or visit the dedicated schools hub on the website at winstonswish.org/schools
Freephone National Helpline: 08088 020 021