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A bereavement

Discussion in 'Primary' started by aquarius10, Sep 6, 2019.

  1. aquarius10

    aquarius10 New commenter

    hi all,

    A sad one I’m afraid. Just started at a new school. A pupil’s dad died yesterday morning after an illness.

    Looking to hear from people about the best way to support this pupil (and family) at this time. Do I tell the class what’s happened? Many probably won’t be aware that the father was ill nor will their parents. Any experiences shared would be greatly appreciated! The pupil hasn’t expressed any emotion yet after saying goodbye to him the previous day. This is a year 3 child.

  2. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Don't do anything without checking with your new school's policy. Do you have a line manager / Senior colleague who could help you more than anyone on here could, as they'll have detailed info we're not privy to, relating to your particular school.
  3. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    The DSL should be able to help as should the phase leader, etc.
    Definitely don't go telling the class without clear guidelines, permission and support.
    Also don't expect the child to respond in the way an adult would. Small children don't feel grief in the same way.

    Definitely get advice.
  4. TheOracleAtDelphi

    TheOracleAtDelphi Occasional commenter

    I agree with everything that Lara and ctb says above.
    In addition, if the decision is made that you are not formally telling the rest of the class, you might want to have a discussion about what to say/do/how to answer questions if the child brings it up himself in class or tells friends (and they come to you about it).

    Approaches may vary considerably depending on how community-y the school is or whether there is a faith foundation (e.g. if a religious family and a faith school, then prayers may have been offered at church/relevant sacred space, so more children may know about the illness) or even if there are older/younger siblings.

    On a practical level, depending on how the rest of the family are managing, the child may be less organised than normal so things like spare PE kit which the child can access unobtrusively could be helpful.

    Also, this probably sounds obvious, but just have a look at the curriculum and content of any stories used for reading or as a stimulus for writing - I'm not saying 'don't do them' but more just be aware that there might be a reaction (and not necessarily the reaction you might expect) and have a plan in place.

    Finally, if the mother/other family members are trying to keep up a routine e.g. listening to read, I would just try and keep a weather eye on what books the child is taking home (this will depend a lot on what approach to reading your school uses/if there is a reading scheme in place /how confident a reader the child is etc.) - the child may not mind reading some things but some stories might be quite difficult for the mum to listen to, especially at first - if this could potentially be the case then maybe mum and child could choose take-home books together.
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2019
  5. aquarius10

    aquarius10 New commenter

    Thank you all for your advice! Thankfully other members of staff are aware and will be supporting too. Just wanted to hear any experiences of this so I can decide on the best way forward for this child.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  6. sunshineneeded

    sunshineneeded Lead commenter

    Agree with everything said so far. At our school, two members of staff (DH and Learning Mentor) have had specific training in supporting children and families with bereavement. Whichever way your school wants to support and be there for this child needs to be a group decision so that you are all working together. Please don't do anything without advice.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  7. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Well having experienced death of children twice in my school career, all I can say is every case is different. Children can be remarkably resilient. Yet appearances / behaviour can be deceiving too.
    Just try to keep things at school as 'normal as possible', allow time for talking if necessary, but generally try to maintain things as well as you can.
  8. grumbleweed

    grumbleweed Lead commenter

    Our LA has a small team who support schools and children with bereavements, things such as making memory boxes, having a safe space to go when things get too much, a signal for ' I need to talk or cry' ( we used a heart token but other things can be used)
    It's important to listen to remaining parents wishes, you may not see them of course but keep channels of communication open.
    It can be tough, so also be kind to yourself too.
  9. thejudgesscoresarein

    thejudgesscoresarein Occasional commenter

    What an awful situation to be in- I’m assuming you are the class teacher?
    If you are, I would strongly advise you get the support of the HT and in their absence the DHT- you have got to deal with the situation very sensitively- the child who is 7/8 years old might not fully understand what has happened therefore not expressing emotion, or they are a very private person- you’ve still got to be diligent- and have that support in place. In regards to notifying the class- liaise with the child’s mother or legal guardian and let them decide- the child might not want the additional fuss. It would be important, however, to send an email to all staff to let them know the situation so that they are aware, but this would be the responsibility of the Headteacher or Deputy Headteacher.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.

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