Bereavement Policy

Policy Details
Date created05/2018
Date reviewed
Next review date05/2021
Date approved2018

Aim of the policy 

  • To enable staff members to feel more confident when working with bereaved students in order to be able to support them more efficiently
  • Provide staff with guidelines for those supporting a bereaved child or young person and help and support staff to deal with a sensitive and often difficult subject
  • To provide the support necessary for bereaved children and young people and safeguard their physical, emotional and mental wellbeing of their students
  • Provide a clear framework for responding to the death of a pupil or staff member in school or off-site
  • Set out a plan for communicating deaths in a timely manner that balances our school community’s interests and transparency with the wishes of the family of the deceased
  • Define the roles and responsibilities of key staff members and the governing board

Children will be bereaved of a parent and many more will experience the death of someone else special in their life. In addition to these individual pupils, schools may also experience the death of a child at school or a staff member. It is almost inevitable, therefore, that at some time all schools will have to deal with a death that affects the school community.

As children spend the vast majority of their time at school, teachers and staff members are the primary source of care and support. Bereaved children will see school as a safe haven away from the turmoil of emotions at home and will look to trusted staff members for help.

Death is something that most people choose not to think about so when faced with it we often find ourselves ill-prepared. The purpose of this bereavement policy is to help and guide everyone involved at a time when there may be shock, upset and confusion, ensure that there is an effective response plan in place, clear lines of communication and each member of the school community is supported to help them through a difficult time. 

  1. Impact on children and young people

While it is true that their understanding of death develops over a prolonged period of time, it is clear that:

  • Children can suffer deeply as a result of the death of a member of the family
  • This suffering is more intense when they do not have the opportunities to talk or to grieve openly, and do not feel that those close to them recognise their feelings – even though they themselves may not yet have the words to express them.
  • There is sometimes a tendency not to talk about how they feel as they do not wish to place an extra burden on for example the remaining parent. They in effect try to manage on their own, which can be very difficult for them.

2.1 An expected bereavement

In addition, the death of a terminally ill pupil or member of staff can be planned for with full support being given before the actual event. Often pupils will want to create a memory board to allow their emotions to be shared with others. Open discussion and realistic language are often the best way to deal with issues that arise. Once the pupil or member of staff dies then it is important that all emotional support is given and the need to mourn is recognised.

2.2 COVID 19/unexpected death

If someone dies of coronavirus, complications resulting from the virus, or for other reasons, a number of things may be particularly hard for the family and friends to deal with. 

  • Infection controls mean that family members do not have an opportunity to spend time with someone who is dying or to say goodbye in person.
  • Depending on the person, the illness may have progressed and become serious very quickly, which can lead to feelings of shock. If they were not able to be present for the death and cannot view the body, it may be difficult to accept the reality of bereavement.
  • At times of considerable trauma, people tend to look for certainty.  However, at the moment, that certainty is not there. This can amplify any feelings of angst and distress.
  • Bereaved people may be exposed to stories in the media that highlight the traumatic nature of death in these circumstances, or they may have witnessed distressing scenes directly. People may become disturbed by mental images, which in a severe form can become post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • If the health services become stretched, friends or family may also have concerns about the care the person received before they died. This, in turn, can lead to feelings of anger and guilt.

2.3 The impact of the death of a pet or loved animal

The school should also be aware of the emotional impact the death of a family pet or, for example, a horse or farm animal might have on a pupil or a member of staff. Whilst much of the bereavement policy deals with the death of people we should not underestimate how important the death of a pet can be to pupils and staff.

3 Raising awareness – School response

It is important that the school has raised awareness of this topic and prepared staff as much as possible to respond to children who have experienced a bereavement. We are not expecting all staff to become expert bereavement counsellors but the initial response and identification is vital to a child’s recovery and overall well-being. It is important for children to know they can speak to any member of staff within the school, however Liz Jones (SENCO) is our designated, named member of staff who will provide support to bereaved children and young people in the event of a death and will advise colleagues in responding to a child who has experienced a bereavement.

If a child has died whilst on school site or away from the site on a school activity (off-site), please follow the guidelines for responding to this in Section 2.

3.1 Designated staff for bereavement – Liz Jones (SENCO)

  • Staff members appointed to provide support to bereaved children and young people have received the appropriate training beforehand and are supported by senior colleagues when offering such support.  Liz Jones will work closely with the MHST team to plan appropriate support in school and through counsellors.
  • The pastoral team will liaise with Liz Jones and the DSL to manage any in school support.
  • Class teachers should be made aware of children impacted by a loss so they can welcome them back to school appropriately when the time comes.
  • Families should know what you can do e.g identify a key person to maintain contact with the family/send the child a letter/card/let other members of the school community know who might be impacted or want to support the grieving child or family.

3.2 Informing children and staff about a death

  • The HT or the member of staff designated for bereavement should speak with the family to get an accurate understanding of the circumstances and agree on how much information can and should be shared with staff, parents and pupils.
  • Only explain the details/circumstances that the family has consented to make public.
  • Deliver the facts in a sensitive and truthful way and encourage pupils and staff to ask questions as this will help to dispel any current or potential rumours or misinformation from circulating within the school.
  • When someone dies, use the words dead or died, not euphemisms like ‘passed away’.


  • Inform the pupils as soon as possible about the death
  • If breaking the news to a group of children, wherever possible this should be done with the pastoral team in the room at the time so that they can take distressed pupils into a quiet room and can look out for any pupils who look particularly anxious or unsettled.
  • Identify those pupils who had a long term and or close relationship with the person who has died so they can be told separately.
  • It may be useful to allow a class/school discussion whereby all students can communicate their feelings and be reassured. Ground rules such as ‘no talking over’ or ‘no interrupting someone when they are speaking’, ‘no making fun of others comments or questions’; are helpful as they encourage students to speak without fear of recrimination.
  • It is acknowledged that some students may laugh or make inappropriate comments, this is how shock can sometimes manifest. Likewise, some children may burst into tears. 
  • Ensure that all pupils who are upset or feel uneasy are supported to talk (in private if necessary) about how they are feeling.
  • Reassure them that not all people who fall ill or have had an accident will die and that many people get better.
  • Put an appropriate time limit on the discussion. It is preferable to resume normal school activities as soon as possible thus ensuring minimal disruption within the school.
  • Conclude the discussion with a prayer or special poem to remember the person who has died and their family.
  • If appropriate, a special assembly could be held at a later time in the day to remember the person who has died.
  • Let families know what you will then do e.g identify a key person to maintain contact with the family/send the child a letter/card/let other members of the school community know who might be impacted or want to support the grieving child or family.


  • Arrange a staff meeting which should take place as soon as possible.  Where possible consider that this should be at the end of the school day, when support can be offered and peer support given.  At the very least colleagues can get support from their families.  
  • Impart factual information. Never make assumptions or repeat what has been said by rumour.
  • Give news sensitively and empathetically, being aware that people may react in different ways.
  • Be cognisant of the relationships of staff may have had with the person who has died.
  • Ensure that there is someone responsible for telling people who are unable to attend the staff meeting i.e part-time staff, peripatetic staff, lunchtime supervisors, colleagues on maternity or long term sick leave. 
  • Consider the best way of imparting the information to those who are absent e.g by doing a home visit, by telephone, text or e-mail, etc.
  • Identify individual members of staff who feel able to: 

a) support members of staff 

b) support groups of children

Often the most appropriate person to support children should be well known to them and trusted.

  • Identify a member of staff who will liaise with the individual’s family, to deal with staff condolences and any funeral arrangements (if necessary)
  • Identify an appropriate member of staff who will take phone calls and or direct them as appropriate
  • Identify a member of staff who will provide a newsletter for parents (see examples of letters appendix 2) which should be sent the same day
  • Arrange a staff meeting at the end of the day to ensure staff are coping with the situation
  • Identify any unresolved problems or ongoing issues
  • Ensure that those staff that live alone have contact numbers of friends in case of need
  • Identify sources of advice and support to access for help in coming to terms with the bereavement (Dove Counselling Service)

4. Responding and supporting children and staff

For many children and young people, the death of a parent, caregiver, sibling or grandparent is an experience they are faced with early in life.. The death of a pupil can be traumatic for both school staff and pupils. It can unnerve other pupils and challenge any feelings of security they might have felt prior to the death. 

Children and young people need to be given the opportunity to grieve as an adult would. Trying to ignore or avert the child’s grief is not protective and can be damaging. Children and young people regardless of their age need to be encouraged to talk about how they are feeling and supported to understand their emotions.

Discussing death and bereavement can prove a difficult subject for teachers and pupils alike, therefore, questions and debates that arise pertaining to this topic should be encouraged, as and when they occur. It will be particularly important for parents/carers to make the school aware of any bereavements the child has experienced in order to support the child appropriately and to establish what and how they have spoken to their child about the death.  A school staff member able to recognise some of the potential behaviours that a bereaved child or young person may exhibit is in a better position to support the child or young person as they grieve. As the nature of grief is individual it is essential to remember that no two children or young people will grieve in the same way and exhibit the same behaviours.

Bereaved children and young people require time, patience and compassion from school staff. The familiarity of school surroundings and existing rapports with teachers, lunchtime supervisors, etc can be a useful vehicle to encourage communication and to allow the child or young person to convey their feelings. 

It is essential for school staff to reassure the bereaved child that the feelings they are experiencing are a very normal and natural reaction to the death of someone close.

  • It is likely that many of the children and young people will have questions and will want to know details relating to the death.  School staff should endeavour to answer all questions in an open and honest manner, using language that is appropriate to the child and young persons age and level of understanding. 
  • A child may identify themselves as in need of support. Some children need a retreat when grief overtakes them, and it helps if the school accepts a child’s need to express their grief, providing a ‘safe place’ and a trusted adult to be with them.
  • Once the bereaved child returns to school routine, it is helpful to share concerns with parents so that they know how they are coping in school.
  • Be prepared to create exceptional circumstances for particular children who need particular help.
  • Set up clear boundaries and make it clear that you have allowed certain behaviours to happen. When the child is ready you can reverse these arrangements. A bereaved child for example may well need to be allowed to behave in a special way according to how they are dealing with the situation. The key is to try to create a normal environment for them by asking what they want to do. Talking, sharing with a counsellor, writing or drawing are very common forms of expression which can help.

5. Whole school response following the death of a child or staff member

  • During lockdown or a holiday period – organise a virtual book of condolences for relevant school community members to sign and write about the child that has died and include pictures and poetry.
  • It is important to consider any cultural or religious implications and seek advice if necessary
  • Ensure nominated staff with responsibilities for supporting staff and children are available to do so
  • It may be necessary temporarily to provide staff cover for their normal activities
  • Identify an allocated quiet place where children, young people and staff can go if necessary
  • It is preferable for there to be minimum disruption to the timetable but some flexibility may be required
  • Try to engender an awareness of when people need help and support, particularly those who worked closely with the person who has died and secretaries/administrative staff who are taking phone calls, dealing with parents etc
  • Through the nominated staff member who has responsibilities for liaising with the individuals’ family ascertain their wishes and feelings about the school’s involvement in the funeral if any
  • Putting an obituary in the paper, sending flowers to the home or to the funeral, making a collection etc
  • Who will attend the funeral
  • Cover for any staff who may be going to the funeral
  • Transport to and from the funeral
  • Informing the parents of those pupils who will be involved
  • Ensure any child attending the funeral is supported by a family member or trusted adult
  • Possible closure of the school. If this is the case remember to tell appropriate staff in advance
  • Resume normal school routine as it is appropriate to do so as this will help to promote feelings of security and normality amongst the children and young people.

5.1 Child dies away from school

If a child dies during the holidays and away from school, the relevant points in (section1-3.2 Informing children and staff about a death should be followed). The member of staff made aware of the death should contact the HT. All staff should be made aware and recognise they may need support. Close friends of the child should also be contacted and support offered. A letter from the school to the rest of the school community should be sent as soon as possible (Appendix 2)

  • Plan a memorial assembly for when the children are back in school to remember lost loved ones

6. Recognising and responding to common symptoms and behaviours associated with grief

6.1 Symptoms

  • Becoming extremely tired, to the point of exhaustion, as so much emotional energy goes into dealing with the loss and the stress of the changes in the family
  • Fear of sleep; if the death has been referred to as ’falling asleep’ or ‘being taken’ 
  • Afraid of losing other family members; words ‘loss’ or ‘lost’ can put fear into a young child’s mind
  • Children can become particularly clingy and attached to the members of the family who remain


  • Disrupt classes
  • Observed becoming restless and unable to concentrate
  • Increase in behaviour difficulties
  • Academic grades may deteriorate
  • If the death occurred on school premises some pupils may not want to return to school for fear of dying in a similar way or in the same place where their classmate died.

Either way staff must remain vigilant and aware of the signs of a child who may be grieving and respond by informing the named designated staff for bereavement.

Should the school believe any pupil would benefit from additional support from within or external to the school, the designated staff for bereavement will discuss this with the child and family before any support is offered or a referral is made.

6.2 Examples of additional support availableSupport within the schoolExternal support (examples)
Mental Health LeadBehaviour Management Co-ordinatorSchool Liaison OfficerParenting leadSchool counsellor School nurse MHSTMindmateCruse Bereavement Care Cruse Bereavement Care(Hope again)Child Bereavement UKWinstons WishGP referralCAHMS

The school will try to retain bereavement resource packs containing information for children and young people of all ages to use when they have been bereaved. 

(Cruse Bereavement Care stock a large catalogue of leaflets, books and other resources designed to help support bereaved children and young people through the grieving process.  Twinkl also offer age appropriate resources). 

7. Advising parents supporting their children who have lost a loved one due to COVID 19

Advising parents on how best to support their child will be an important part of the whole process. Parents themselves may be experiencing grief and not know how best they can help their child. The organisations above will be helpful for parents, children and young people and professionals alike.

8. Curriculum

As we are only too well aware of, death of a loved one is something we shall all experience at some point in our life. Like many other topics this can be something that can be addressed within the curriculum through our PHSE Jigsaw as a method of preparing children for the future. This should be delivered in a sensitive and age appropriate way. Considerations should be made for any child that may struggle through this topic and adaptations made where necessary.

Reading/resource examples – 

Co-op funeral care – Support for children

The Amy and Tom books are a tool for bereaved primary school aged children and distributed free of charge to bereaved families, family liaison officers, schools, and medical professionals across the country. Written by Mary Williams OBE and Illustrated by Steve Fraser.  Series of films can also be found by click on the Co-op link above

Other material

Muddles, Puddles and Sunshine

The Cat Mummy by Jaqueline Wilson for children age 5-8 

Badgers parting gifts by Susan Varley

Huge bag of worries by Virginia Ironside

Water bugs and dragonflies by Doris Stickney

When someone you knows dies by Marge Eaton Heegaard

Feelings by Aliki Branderberg

Good Grief by B Ward and Associates – ( primary/secondary resources) as a colleague of mine I’m sure Barbara would allow you photocopiable rights – could always write and ask her . One wonderful colleague who I’ve worked with for years.

Healing grief by  Barbara Ward 

The Elephant Tea Party resources and training

The Invisible String, Someone I loved Died and the My Wish book. 

Training for staff available from

  • Local authority
  • Child Bereavement Uk
  • Pam Gartland Safeguarding first ltd 


Responding to the death of a child at school or off-site

Specific advice following a death – working with the police, parents, children at school, teachers and the media

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, to safeguard the children and young people and to prevent further disaster occurring.

If a child dies at school or on a school trip the following should be put into operation immediately. All staff should be issued with the appropriate sections. Depending on the cause of death you may need to contact Public Health England e.g. hepatitis 

Public Health England Chapter 4: What to do if you suspect an outbreak of infection.

2a) Immediate action

On discovery of a possible death, the member of staff should:

  1. Call the emergency services at once, including paramedics and police
  2. Summon a First aider and the HT to activate the following aspects of this policy.
  3. Secure the scene and remain with the body until help arrives

2b) Death at school

In responding to an emergency during normal school activities, it will be the responsibility of the Head Teacher and the DSL to ensure that:

  1. The building, if appropriate has been evacuated
  2. The necessary emergency services have been called
  3. A roll call has been taken to ascertain that all pupils, staff and visitors are safe.

2c) Death at off-site activity

It is the responsibility of the Teacher in Charge of the group, or where necessary, by delegation to another member of staff or responsible adult to:

  1. Make sure that all members of the party are accounted for and that they are safe.
  2. If there are injuries immediately establish their extent and administer appropriate first aid
  3. Call emergency services if required
  4. Ensure that the remainder of the party is adequately supervised throughout and make arrangements for their return to base, either at school or field trip base.
  5. Arrange for at least one adult to remain at the incident site to liaise with the emergency services and to ensure that all staff and pupils are accounted for.
  6. Control access to the telephones until contact is made with the HT, emergency contact point or designated senior member of staff and until they have had time to contact any parent whose children are directly involved.
  7. If an accident or crisis occurs try to establish what has happened, what needs to be done to safeguard children, young people and staff and what the consequences are likely to be. Once you have clear and accurate information you will need to contact the HT or DHT. Parents, families and other school staff should be notified as soon as possible that there has been an accident.

2d) Working with the police

  • Very soon after the death is announced the police should visit as they will have an investigation to carry out into the circumstances.
  • You will need to clear rooms and spaces for them to work in. They may want to collect evidence. The police will normally tell the child’s next of kin and will want to speak at once to the member of staff who was with the child or first on the scene. The member of staff will possibly be very upset, will need someone with them and stay at school until they have spoken to the police.
  • The police will almost certainly tell you that you must not speculate on the cause of death, but remember the media are under no such restrictions.

2e) Telling Pupils

Where a pupil collapses during the school day when other pupils are present, is rushed to hospital and subsequently dies, those pupils will need to know what has happened before they leave at the end of the school day. The school will consult with the family regarding their wishes in sharing the information with the school community. It is important to agree with the police the timings and content of the information that you give to pupils so as to meet the needs of the pupils whilst not impeding any police investigation. Are there any siblings, close relatives, or boy/girl friend who needs to know first? Advise them first, but only when parents are ready to collect them.

Gather the year group together at an appropriate time. The pupils will listen until you tell them that the pupil has died, then they stop hearing. If the pupil has died as a result of an accident you may want to ask not to speculate about the causes and not to spread rumours. Getting them to hear this is very difficult. Allow them ten minutes to just be together as a year group. They will need to cry. Expect that some pupils will contact the local press.

Additional considerations are in Section 1(3.2) of this policy

2f) Telling teachers

This may have to be after you have told the key pupils. You will need to tell the teachers who were nearest to what happened first. Depending on who that teacher is, they will probably need someone with them. If you want teachers to tell other pupils for you, have a statement ready for them to read out before you advise them.

2g) Telling parents

The police will tell the parents of the child that has died. Getting a letter to other parents which both expresses sympathy and gives factual information about the death is very important. It saves rumours, which can be intensely hurtful to pupils , parents and staff.

For other parents it may be more appropriate that where possible they should be asked to come to school so that the latest information can be received immediately as it is relayed to the HT and other 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 communication handlers are aware that they don’t inadvertently tell the parents/family of the death.

2h) Dealing with the media

  • The LA should be informed at the earliest opportunity to consider the potential media implications surrounding the death and to put together a statement that can be shared as necessary.
  • The press and local TV channels may contact the parents and may speculate about the cause of death. This is a very hard thing to deal with, especially if a TV crew has filmed this speculation by distraught parents.
  • The LA will guide you through any press/media interest and statements that are required. 
  • If there is a post-mortem, this may happen very quickly, possibly within 24hrs of the death. Ensure you are advised of the results of any post-mortem as soon as possible. The best way to stop speculation is to give facts.

2i) Assistance from others

The HT/ Principal should alert the LA as soon as possible. 

2j) Monitoring and evaluation

When an individual case arises, the policy is adhered to and therefore is monitored through this process and adjusted as required. The policy is evaluated in accordance with the policy monitoring and evaluation cycle and the date of renewal is stated on the front of this policy.

Where a critical incident occurs, the LA may conduct a Serious Case Review. 

This policy was put together using the following sources and reading material:

Co-op Funeral Care

Cruse Bereavement Care

Felsted School – Bereavement Policy

Supplements from the TES Feb 2019

i Matter – A guide to managing critical incidents in school.



Dear Parents 

I have had the sad task of informing the children of the tragic death of <Name> who has been a teacher at this school for a number of years. 

Our thoughts are with <Name …….’s> family at this time. All the pupils have been informed. Many will have known <Name….> for many years and have been taught by him / her. They will have different memories, but will share the common bond that one of their teachers has passed away. He / she has given so much to the school and will be sadly missed 

When someone dies it is normal for family and friends to experience many different feelings such as sadness, anger and confusion, and young people can sometimes become quiet or withdrawn, angry, seek the company of their immediate friends, or ask questions about the meaning and purpose of life, and the nature of death. 

The pupils have been told that their Form Tutor, or any member of the teaching staff, will provide support and help if they wish to discuss their feelings. The school can offer counselling support for those most deeply affected. 

We will of course keep you informed as to the funeral arrangements and the date and time of any memorial service. I am very sorry to have to write to you in this way. 

Yours sincerely 


Head Teacher


Before sending a letter home to parents about the death of a pupil, permission must be gained from the child’s parents. The contents of the letter and the distribution list must be agreed by the parents and school. 


Dear Parents 

Your child‟s class teacher/form tutor/had the sad task of informing the children of the death of <Name>, a pupil in <Year>. 

<Name> died from the illness we know as cancer. As you may be aware, many children who have cancer get better but sadly <Name> had been ill for a long time and died peacefully at home yesterday. 

He/She was a very popular member of the class and will be missed by everyone who knew him/her. 

When someone dies it is normal for their friends and family to experience lots of different feelings like sadness, anger and confusion. The children have been told that their teachers are willing to try to answer their questions at school but if there is anything more that you or your child needs to know, please do not hesitate to ring the school office and we would be more than happy to help you. 

We will be arranging a memorial service in the school in the next few months as a means of celebrating <Name..‟s> life. 

Yours sincerely 


Advising parents supporting their children who have lost a loved one due to COVID 19

  • Try to stay in contact with bereaved friends and family (even if you cannot visit in person if you or they are isolating). 
  • Let them talk about how they are feeling and about the person who has died – talking can be one of the most helpful things after someone dies.
  • Talk honestly with your children about both facts and emotions
  • As what they know- they may be getting information that is incorrect or distorted from friends or social media.
  • Don’t overload children and consider their age and understanding. With a younger child, you may need to give information in small chunks.
  • Talking about the situation and about the possibility of death and dying is an ongoing conversation.
  • Ask what they want to know and be reassuring. Explain that illness is often mild and most people recover, but be honest about the fact that, very sadly, some people will die. 
  • It’s okay to let them know if you don’t know the answers to some of their questions.
  • Don’t make promises ( Grandma will be fine) but reassure them that they are loved and supported. 
  • Let them know about any plans for what might happen if one of the family gets ill. 
  • Focus on what you are doing to stay safe.
  • An important way to reassure children and young people is to emphasis the safety precautions that you are taking. Children feel empowered when they know what to do to keep safe, so explain about the importance of washing their hands.
  • It can help to keep a routine, especially when everything has been disrupted. 
  • Structured days with regular mealtimes, school work, breaks, playtime and bedtime can help younger children stay happy and healthy.
  • Help them to get some exercise even if they can’t leave the house. 
  • Help them keep in contact with friends and relatives over the phone or internet.
  • At the same time don’t be hard on yourself or set unrealistic goals about what you can do under exceptional circumstances.
  • Try to make sure you all get some time apart and time to relax.
  • Wherever possible, let children and young people make some choices about what they are doing, as this may help give them some sense of control over their lives.
  • Remember grief is personal and people may need different things and feel differently at different times. There is no single pathway for healing.
  • Here is a range of ideas
    • Plant a tree/seeds/bulbs
    • Write a poem
    • Write about a fun time you had with the person
    • Draw a picture to describe a fun time
    • Write them a letter
    • Make a photo collage
    • Talk to a friend about them and how you are feeling
    • Talk to a trusted adult about them and how you are feeling
    • Call a helpline to talk to someone about how you are feeling
    • Listen to music
    • Go for a walk
  • If you are worried they are experiencing very severe symptoms or flashbacks you can contact your GP services and or one of the organisations above for further advice and support.
  • Don’t do this alone.

Cruse National Freephone Helpline for adults

Cruse (HopeUK) for children and young people

Child line – When someone dies for young people

Winstons Wish for adults