If you are the first school staff member to be informed that a colleague has died ensure that you inform the other staff immediately. A staff meeting may need to be called irrespective of the time of day when you are informed, with a skeletal staff supervising lessons / break times, etc.
As soon as all of the school staff have been informed a school assembly with all form groups present will need to be called. Once the assembly has been called explain to the students what has happened and allow pupils to ask questions. Answer all questions honestly and be mindful to only give out the details that the family of the person who has died has consented to.
If there are pupils who wish to say something about the person who has died or want to pay tribute, allow them to do so. Encourage pupils to talk about their feelings and share memories of the staff member who has died within their form / class groups. There may be some pupils who held the member of staff in high regard or shared a rapport with them. It is worthwhile having school staff monitor these pupils for any signs of distress, fear or unease. Reassure all pupils that should they wish to talk to someone at school about how they are feeling they are welcome to.
It is worth mentioning here that other staff members may be grieving too and they may also require support and / or time off to mourn.
If the member of staff who has died taught a particular class, the head teacher or another teacher familiar to the students, may wish to attend the class with the new class teacher when they have been appointed.
The school staff and students may wish to hold a memorial service or open a book of remembrance, encourage all staff and students wishing to participate. School staff should also be given the chance to meet to share their feelings, thoughts and memories pertaining to the member of staff who has died.
Consideration should be given regarding how best to support those staff members and students who have been particularly affected by the death and support will be needed for the teacher appointed to take over from the person who has died. You may want to contact your local Cruse Bereavement Care for help and advice. Your local / regional Cruse Bereavement Care branch will be happy to offer support to staff and students irrespective of whether it is a member of staff who has died or if a student has died.
Students may wish to access Cruse Bereavement Care’s specialist website, Hope Again designed to support bereaved children and young people. If the school has a computer suite, it may be an idea to encourage form groups or groups of students who have been most affected by the death to log on to Hope Again if they feel they would benefit from this.
How can I help?
- Inform all members of the school staff about the death as soon as you are able to. Arrange for the school staff to meet again at the end of the day or at the most convenient time to allow them to share their emotions and discuss ways to best support each other and the students
- Call a full school assembly and explain the death in an appropriate and honest manner. Reassure all students that should they want to talk about the death and discuss how they are they feeling, that they will be able to do so
- If there are students who have been particularly affected by news of the death, liaison with their families may be needed so that they are supported at home.
- Allow students to take time from their lessons / normal school day to talk about their reactions to the death and to share their memories and reflections of the member of staff who has died
- Open a book of remembrance and / or hold a memorial service to allow staff and students to remember the person who has died
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 message boards where young people can share their experiences.