Managing the death of a pupil

"When you are feeling very emotional it can be very hard to make some of these difficult decisions."

The death of a pupil, whatever the circumstances, has a huge impact on the school community. Although SEND settings may have an increased number of pupil deaths, it does not lessen the impact of a child dying.

Schools with a bereavement policy find that this can be an invaluable tool at a time when their community is grieving.

In collaboration with the family, it is important to communicate news of the death across the school community, starting with the staff. This should also include support staff, therapists, peripatetic teachers, taxi/bus drivers, and anyone else involved with the pupils in the school. News of a death may spread rapidly and indiscriminately, particularly due to social media, so it is essential to consider how best to disseminate the information sensitively and in a timely manner. When informing the pupils, you will need to use your professional judgement on how best to do this, thinking about those who knew the pupil (friends and peers) and those who may know the family or any siblings. Informing all pupils about what has happened is also important, even if they did not know the pupil who died; they may pick up on the emotions of staff, messages within school, or hear about it in the playground.

The news of a death may be very difficult to share but it is important for all pupils to have an opportunity to grieve and to celebrate the life of a member of their community.

It is helpful for all pupils to have the opportunity to say goodbye, and while it may not be possible for them to attend the funeral, school could provide an alternative way for them to do this. For example, you could hold a special assembly, create music or artwork to remember the pupil, tie ribbons to a tree, or engage with activities which the pupil particularly enjoyed.

It may be appropriate for the school to host a special event to celebrate the life of the pupil who died, or to remember them by planting a tree, buying a bench, or naming an award in memory of them. These memorials should be with the permission of the pupil's family giving them an opportunity to be involved, and where possible also involving the ideas and opinions of pupils in the school.

Further links:

When someone in the school community dies

Remembering - collaborative projects for the school community

Sudden death - including accidents, suicide and homicide