For schools

Support and information for schools and teachers

Children spend a great deal of time in school so it’s unsurprising that teachers, as familiar and trusted adults, can play an enormously important role in supporting a bereaved child.

Support for teachers
  • 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 

What to expect

A bereaved child might display a whole range of emotions or, alternatively, very few. Among the issues that may arise are:

  • A change in behaviour – becoming withdrawn or exhibiting anger and aggression
  • Increased anxiety which may show itself as the child getting very upset at a seemingly trivial incident
  • Difficulty in concentrating or being forgetful which could affect academic performance
  • Complaining of illnesses such as headaches or stomach aches
  • Separation anxiety – worrying about the people they are close to when they are away from them

How you can help

Up to 70 per cent of schools have a bereaved pupil on their roll at any given time. Schools are well placed to provide young people with the support they need to help them get through this difficult time in their lives. The routine and familiarity of a normal school day can be of great comfort to a grieving young person.

Children may be anxious about the thought of returning to school. Good communication between the school and the family will help make things go as smoothly as possible. It’s a good idea to appoint a member of staff who can liaise with the family both before and after the child’s return.

Fully involve the child and family in discussions about how the return to school should be handled. Reassure the pupil about the support that will be available to them as they settle back in to school life. In circumstances when other pupils are to be told of the death, discuss with the family about what is to be said. Explain to other pupils how a bereaved child might be feeling and encourage them to be supportive.

Ensure that staff members are made aware of the circumstances surrounding the death. Have somewhere a grieving child can go for a “time out” should the bustling school environment become a bit too much.

Show flexibility and understanding should a child’s schoolwork fall below usual standards.

Have a selection of resources on bereavement. Stories are an excellent way of helping to explain the concept of death, particularly to younger children.

School bereavement assemblies and workshops

We are able to present whole school, key stage or class assemblies and more interactive class workshops about death and bereavement,  these will be appropriate for the age group and educational needs of the pupils attending. Information and opt-out forms will be provided to the school for the parents in the weeks prior and an alternative will be offered for children not taking part.

These sessions can be used as part of a PSHCE or SEAL curriculum to allow children to think about death and grief in a safe and supportive space. Within these sessions children will be invited to think about living things for example; animals, plants and people. A gentle exploration of the transition of life to death will be explored and a non-judgemental opportunity offered to ask questions and to consider thoughts or preconceptions.

OWLs Bereavement - Schools Beliefs

Help for a school supporting a bereaved child

Children spend a great deal of time in school so it’s unsurprising that teachers and support staff, as familiar and trusted adults, can play an important role in supporting a bereaved child. There are a number of interventions that the OWLS Bereavement service can offer a school to aid them in supporting a bereaved child and their family.

If appropriate, the above workshops and assemblies may be useful, or alternatively a smaller group session with the peers of a child who has experienced a bereavement. In this case the OWLS team will endeavour to be in contact with the family of the bereaved child directly prior to workshops/sessions.

More focused support can be given in the form of 1:1 bereavement therapy for the affected child, again after contact and assessment with the parent/carer/guardian. Support may be also be given for their class team if necessary.
Suggestions of books and other printed information can be given buy the OWLS team. If we are unable to offer support, signposting to other organisations who may be able to offer more specialised help will be offered.

Download our information for schools