A year ago, the UK Commission on bereavement was coordinating one of the largest ever consultations on bereavement support ever undertaken in the UK. The aim of this work was to better understand the different experiences of bereavement and to map out the kinds of help that are most useful to those who have been bereaved of someone close to them.
I would like to thank thos of you who responded to the call for evidence.
The Commission heard from over a thousand adults and almost one hundred children and young people. The Commission realised that supporting communities across the United Kingdom to normalise reactions to grief would help to build resilient and compassionate communities. Among a range of recommendations to support this process, the Commission called for grief education to be a key topic that should be included in the curriculum.
This recommendation was developed following engagement with 31 000 students voting on the topic of grief education with one of the Commission's partners, VotesforSchools. The responses from young people were helpful and thought-provoking: 58% of primary school pupils, 38% of secondary school pupils, and 65% of college students voted to have lessons in school on how to cope with loss and bereavement.
‘If it is going to be taught, it should be taught when children are young, because losing someone can happen at any point in a child's life – not just high school or college. It would help to be prepared and for this topic to be freely discussed…’
As one college student said: ‘If it is going to be taught, it should be taught when children are young, because losing someone can happen at any point in a child's life – not just high school or college. It would help to be prepared and for this topic to be freely discussed, not taboo.’
Better access to resources, support for student mental health and more acknowledgement of bereavement and its impact, were all ideas put forward by children and young people alongside lessons on coping with grief.
But this is just part of the story. The Childhood Bereavement Network knows that there are many dedicated school staff who have supported, and will continue to support, bereaved children and young people in their setting.
We want to understand more about what these staff think about grief education. We want to know how they are supporting students to learn about these topics at the moment, and what barriers they think there are.
Our short survey will help us understand the key concerns of school staff around the United Kingdom, and what could help them have supportive conversations about grief and bereavement with the children they work with. The survey is open until the end of January 2023 so please have your say.
While the Childhood Bereavement Network is keen to hear from school staff, we also know that thinking about grief and bereavement can be daunting, particularly for those who have been bereaved. There is lots of support out there for anyone affected, from films with personal and professional stories from the Good Grief Festival, to emotional support from Cruse and local bereavement services based in communities around the country.
The Childhood Bereavement Network has developed a range of resources to help school staff provide learning and support around bereavement.
Schools can start by working through the free Growing in Grief Awareness toolkit and start to build a whole-school approach to the topics of bereavement and bereavement support in schools.
Using the Growing in Grief Awareness framework can help your school to:
- Be better prepared to support pupils dealing with the death of a parent, sibling, friend or someone else important in their lives
- Improve staff confidence in responding helpfully to bereaved pupils and parents/carers
- Find curriculum resources to help pupils learn about managing bereavement
- Demonstrate to inspectors, parents and other key stakeholders how bereavement is being addressed
- Strengthen partnerships with local and national services for pupils who need additional support.
‘Children and young people are calling out for grief education, and schools are key to ensuring the response gives them all the help they need.’
Schools will also value our popular postcards that help bereaved children and young people signal what they need from teachers and other adults in their life. And our map of local bereavement support services is vital for linking to specialist support in your area. There are many ways we can provide you with the resources you need to create and maintain safe spaces in your setting for bereaved children and young people.
Furthermore, our members Child Bereavement UK, Grief Encounter, Partnership for Children and Winston's Wish all have lesson plans and support on offer for those working with children and young people in educational settings. Alongside this, many of our local members can provide training and support for both supporting bereaved pupils and helping you provide a safe platform for children to learn the vital life lessons of coping with grief.
But to make sure these resources are relevant to your needs and tackle the concerns you have, we need you to take part in our survey (see Further information). Children and young people are calling out for grief education, and schools are key to ensuring the response gives them all the help they need.
By joining the Childhood Bereavement Network, you can be involved in our campaigning to ensure that all children can access the help they need to manage the impact of death on their lives.
Find out more on the Childhood Bereavement Network website.
Childhood Bereavement Network
Child Bereavement UK