Dealing with crisis at school | Cruse Bereavement Care

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Occasionally an accident or crisis can occur either on the school premises or on a school trip. A rapid response from school staff will be needed in such situations to ensure relevant information is communicated, the safeguarding of students and staff is adhered to and to prevent further disaster occurring.

If an accident or crisis occurs try to establish what has happened, what needs to be done to safeguard students and staff and what the consequences are likely to be. Once you have clear and accurate information you will need to contact the head teacher or deputy heads. Parents, families and other school staff should be notified as soon as possible that there has been accident.

It is worthwhile having a special telephone line within the school designated for dialling out only. There is also special software available to make it easy to contact parents, via text messaging for example. As soon as news of the accident or crisis spreads many of the usual reception lines are likely to become engaged with people phoning in to find out what has happened.

Where possible staff members, parents and families should be asked to come to the school so that the latest information can be received immediately as it is relayed to the head teacher or designated member of staff. Ensure that those people answering communications have the latest up to date and accurate information and if there is an occasion where a pupil or staff member dies as a result of the accident or crisis, the communications handlers are aware that they don’t inadvertantly tell the parents / family of the death.

If there is tragic news ensure that the parents / families involved are told in private what has happened. Offer assistance to families / parents in need of transport, hospital contact numbers and emotional support. Try not to leave families alone in their distress.

Prevent the media from entering the school premises or bothering distressed pupils and families. Where possible appoint a member of the school staff to deal with any press or television crews.

Explain to the student body in their class / form groups what has happened and allow them time and space to grieve and ask questions. Answer all questions truthfully and in a manner appropriate to the class’ age and level of comprehension.

School staff should be alert to any students who are exhibiting signs of distress or are struggling to cope. Resume normal school routine as soon as it is appropriate to do so as this will help to promote feelings of security and normality amongst the students.

How Can I Help?

  • Organise a debriefing session with all school staff members following the accident or crisis
  • Ensure that all students and staff are supported as they grieve
  • Call an assembly when it is appropriate to do so, to express the school’s sense of loss, sympathy for the families involved and to decide on a form of memorial
  • Ensure media interest is kept away from the school grounds and appoint a member of staff to liaise with any journalists or reporters that arrive at the school
  • Keep the parents and families of the students affected by the event aware of what is happening in the school, and of the need to watch out for signs of distress in their children or young people in the months to come


Further help

A Schools Pack is available to download.

Many of our Areas offer support to children and young people. Find your local Cruse service and contact them to see what is offered in your area.

Our website Hope Again is a website designed for young people by young people. It includes information and forums where young people can share their experiences.