Background Educating and supporting children around death, dying and bereavement, in schools, frequently relies on the individual interest and expertise of staff (Rowling 2003). Moves to develop such work of ten results in one off projects led by external agencies. Support and education is therefore ad hoc and unequitable. A research study was undertaken between a hospice and school to develop practice in this area from a health promotion perspective. This presentation discusses the design and implementation of two practice innovations arising from this process.
Aim The innovations aimed to introduce and educate children on issues related to loss and change, whilst simultaneously ensure that school staff have the skills and confidence to support individual experiences within the school setting. This was from a harm education and early intervention standpoint.
Method Collaborative inquiry, within an action research methodology, was used to advance the innovations. This involved school and hospice staff working together to design and facilitate the activities.
Results A programme of activities for children aged 5 to 11 (the resilience project) was designed and integrated throughout the curriculum. This is currently being piloted. A bereavement training programme was designed and facilitated to all school staff. Evaluations reported an increase in confidence around supporting bereavement issues.
Conclusion The process highlighted that combing the skills and expertise of hospice and school staff was essential in developing sustainable activities, appropriate to the setting. The role of the hospice in engaging with communities to collaboratively develop education and support around death, dying and bereavement was emphasised.
Rowling, L. Grief in school communities: effective support strategies. Buckingham and Philadelphia: Open University Press, 2003.
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