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Learning from the pupils: a new approach to bereavement support in schools

Wednesday 05th December 2018

Students from Gryffe High School are attempting to raise awareness of the issues facing young people who have gone through the loss of a parent or loved one by sharing their own experiences, and developing a pioneering new approach to bereavement support in school.

A set of support materials aimed at teachers, parents and other pupils has been created as part of a collaboration between Gryffe High School and the Children and Young Person’s Service at St. Vincent’s Hospice, Howwood.

As well as being a specialist provider of palliative and hospice care for people with life limiting conditions in Renfrewshire, St. Vincent’s Hospice also offers bereavement counselling and support for children and young people aged 2-18, helping them come to terms with major changes in their lives.

Children and Young Persons Bereavement Worker Alison Provan, said “Being a teenager is a difficult time for anyone, there are so many changes going on in your life that it can be overwhelming at the best of times. Now imagine going through that after the death of a parent or someone close to you.

“Sadly, for most schools and teachers, the resources simply aren’t available to provide proper training and development to give staff the confidence and knowledge to effectively manage issues around bereavement.  The students felt so passionately that they wanted to help people to understand, that we thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to collaborate with Gryffe High School and develop materials which can make a real difference and offer tangible, practical support.”

As part of the project, which included creating practical guides and advice for teachers, pupils and staff, the group created an “Advice from our Pupils” booklet. This listed significant incidents, issues, worries or concerns that the students had experienced while coming to terms with loss, written in their own words.  This has now been made available to all teachers and support staff across the school.

Adam Findlay, Principal Teacher for Guidance at Gryffe High School, said: “The collaboration with St. Vincent’s is something that has been in development for a couple of years. Gill Brand, a fellow Guidance Teacher at Gryffe High School, and I identified a large gap in the universal support offered to young people within a school setting. As we supported pupils who were experiencing loss and bereavement, we found that there was no specific guidance for all pupils, staff and parents to follow to ensure the pupils and their families received the best, and most appropriate support required at such difficult times.

“Through conversation with Alison, who already supported a number of pupils within the school, we discussed the possibility of creating resources to aid that process. The relationships and confidence that she had built with the pupils, allowed a unique insight into the approach staff members could take to ensure an environment is created in which a pupil would feel safe and supported.”

These materials have now been rolled out across the school, and are available for all members of staff, pupils and parents, to help them gain a more meaningful understanding of bereavement and loss for children and young people. The materials, and more information, can be found at: http://www.svh.co.uk/services/supportive-care

Learning from the pupils: a new approach to bereavement support in schools