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Bereavement resources for schools 

Children spend a lot of time at school, so the teachers and staff there can make up a huge part of their support system following a bereavement. To help with this, we’ve put together some useful tips to help you know where to start. And, we’ve included some bereavement resources for further support.

 Getting back to school can help provide a familiar routine and some normality in a child’s day. It is another safe space for a child to focus on themselves, but also take support from qualified adults and comfort from friends.
A child who is returning to school following a bereavement, needs to be supported well to minimise any stress or anxiety they may have. Using well planned resources and knowledge, school and home can work together to support the child before, during and after their return to school. 

On this page, we’ll cover:  

School children sit at their desks listening to their teacher - offering tips for teachers is part of our bereavement resources for schools

Tips for schools supporting pupils following a bereavement   

Speak to the family and come up with a plan together 

Arrange a meeting prior to the child returning to school and come up with a plan that will work well with what they are already doing at home.  

Get an understanding of what the child knows and if there is anything that you need to know to best support them. It may also be useful to find out if there are any specific triggers which could come up whilst they’re at school. This would enable you to give them prior warning before a lesson and they can decide whether they feel comfortable being there. 

You may want to find out what language has been used to explain their loved one’s death so that you can make sure you use the same. For example, some families may choose not to use the word ‘tumour’ or ‘dead’ and instead describe it as a ‘lump’ or ‘passed away’. Making sure you’re on the same page as the family can help to create continuity and stop unnecessary confusion which could be upsetting for the child.  

Speak to the child directly, if appropriate to them and the family feel that this would be helpful, to find out what they want. Do they want everyone to be told before they come back to school? Or would they rather just their close friends be told so they can help support them? Do they want to have regular check ins or would they rather just come to you when they need something? 

Asking the child and giving them some control over the situation can help empower them and show that you care about their needs. It will also give you the opportunity to find out and address anything that might be making them nervous about being back at school.  

Time out

Arrange a ‘time-out’ option ahead of time, in case things get too much for the child and they need a break.  

This could be giving them a card that they can just place on the desk, a signal they can make to you or anything else that feels a good fit for the child you’re working with. Once this has been decided, make sure you have a space or someone that they can always go to. If available, a sensory room might be a good choice but any room where they feel relaxed and safe will work well. 

Having a conversation with the child about this and coming up with a plan together would be ideal. It might be that they want to be alone, talk things through with someone or they might prefer to have something to do, such as a mood/anxiety workbook or sensory toys. 

Don’t expect too much/make allowances 

Coming back to school will likely be overwhelming for them and it might be hard for them to concentrate as much as usual. Give them extra time where you can and consider not setting as much homework or being as strict with deadlines.  If your school uses auto generated emails to send updates to parents, consider which of these may not be appropriate and if they should be stopped for the time being.

If they have exams coming up, speak to them about what they might need to make this easier for them. Do they need extra time? Or an option to be in their own room and take breaks if needed?  

Remember every child is different 

Throughout this list, we have mentioned repeatedly about asking the child what they want. Every child will deal with their grief in their own way and there isn’t a one size fits all approach.  

This is also likely to change over time and what works now might not work in a few weeks or months time.  

Utilise what’s available to you 

Make use of anything available at your school that would be helpful. This might include sensory rooms, counsellors, pastoral support, or age relevant books that the family can take home. 

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Further bereavement resources for schools

Child Bereavement UK

Child Bereavement UK have some amazing free resources that we would recommend looking over. In particular they have a thorough guide for primary schools which has a wealth of information.

They also have a number of short videos on a variety of topics, including one entitled ‘For teachers when a pupil returns to school after being bereaved’. 

Winston’s Wish

Winston’s Wish also have a brilliant resource on supporting a grieving child as well as how to create a bereavement policy for your school.

In addition to this they run free online bereavement courses for teachers which you can sign up and find more information on all their courses on their website. And, they offer support for schools working with grieving children and young people.

If you have further questions, need to clarify any of the information on this page, or want to find out more about research and clinical trials, please contact our team:
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Emma Bassett, a primary school teacher who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 13 in 2004, looks into the camera.
Emma Bassett, a primary school teacher who was diagnosed with a brain tumour at 13 in 2004.

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