Coping with a Covid-19 related death in school
What we mean by a 'Covid-19 related death'
Within the present context this may involve the death of a pupil, the death of a carer or a member of staff due to Covid-19. It could also include an acute life threatening event. The Educational Psychology Service may provide support in such cases.
The current situation with Coronavirus means that there is an increased risk of a death both within school and the wider school community. This is coupled with a general raised level of anxiety due to the uncertainty around the virus and additional complication of school closures.
Please note, during this time Gloucestershire’s Safeguarding Children Executive continues to provide a rapid response to review child deaths and Acute Life Threatening Events. The death of all babies/children under 18 years of age (that reside in Gloucestershire) should be notified to the Executive using the online Notification Form.
What happens if my school has a Covid-19 related death
In the event of a death, the Educational Psychology Service will offer support to the school’s management team in order to appropriately manage the situation. The approach taken is based on research into best practice and is founded on helping schools manage the immediate aftermath of an event, including advice and support around communication, practical arrangements and managing emotions.
Research indicates that the management of events is a crucial factor in influencing the recovery of those involved. A carefully considered framework can help to avoid additional pressures that might add to an already fragile situation.
What to do if a death occurs
When a death event occurs, it is important that schools let the LA know as soon as possible. There is one central phone number (01452 426228) or the email address is email@example.com that can be used for this purpose. The Safeguarding Support Unit will then contact the EPS and a member of the team will then get in touch with you to identify what support is required.
Contact with the Educational Psychology Service
Either a senior member of the Educational Psychology Service, or your school’s Educational Psychologist, will contact you to identify what steps have been taken so far and what needs to happen next. In the present situation this will be by telephone or video call.
What happens from that conversation depends on the magnitude of the event, but may include advice about:
- How to communicate the information to children and staff: what messaging systems are available? Form of words to express regret but at the same time reducing anxiety.
- How to communicate with parents: what messaging systems are available? Form of words to express regret but at the same time reducing anxiety.
- Sharing information with staff to talk about typical responses to traumatic events and how to manage them.
- Providing a focus for students to share feelings for example, ‘virtual’ use of tutor/mentor groups; other school sharing forums.
- Identification of , and planning for, vulnerable children, families and colleagues
- Practical issues such as memorials/books of condolences.
The EP supporting you in managing the situation will help you in the immediate aftermath of it and they will also follow up with you over the next few days to support with any issues that arise. In the present situation of social distancing, this will be done remotely. If after a period of time, there are members of the school community who are showing signs of continued distress the EP will discuss this and signpost to further support.
Resources and information about bereavement and emotional wellbeing
The Educational Psychology Service has a range of documents that schools can use in the event of a death. These include information on grief and bereavement, guidance as to how to support pupils during a traumatic event as well as leaflets for parents and pupil.
Additional resources for emotional wellbeing
Documents to support schools to manage emotional wellbeing in relation to Coronavirus can be found here:
What will happen when we return to school?
Research suggests that structure and routine are reassuring following a bereavement.
Once schools re-open, although initially amendments may need to be made to the curriculum, the general pattern of the day should be as normal as possible. Whilst so, in the first few days following the return to school, teachers may be advised to avoid teaching new material and familiar and undemanding tasks may be appropriate until the pupils have ‘settled back’ in to school life.
During this period the Educational Psychology Service can be available for support, guidance and to answer any questions you might have.