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O-18 Evaluation of the school bereavement programme in Northern Ireland (Phase 1 pilot)
  1. Susannah Baines1,
  2. Katarzyna Patynowska1,
  3. Joan McEwan1,
  4. Eleanor Ellerslie2,
  5. Ann Scanlon2,
  6. Christine Irvine1,
  7. Austin Orr1,
  8. Ashleigh Maynard2,
  9. Megan Canning3,
  10. Rachel Ward3,
  11. Tracey McConnell4 and
  12. Giles Skerry1
  1. 1Marie Curie, London, UK
  2. 2Cruse Bereavement Support, London, UK
  3. 3School of Psychology, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK
  4. 4School of Nursing and Midwifery, Queen’s University, Belfast, UK


Background Northern Ireland is one of the worst regions of the UK at acknowledging and talking about death and dying. This creates a barrier to children and young people impacted by a terminal illness receiving the care and support they need (Marie Curie. Creating a death literate society. The importance of boosting understanding and awareness of death, dying and bereavement in Northern Ireland. 2022). A recent report found that half of children in Northern Ireland have not received support from their school or college after a bereavement (The UK Commission on Bereavement. Bereavement is everyone’s business. 2022) Marie Curie partnered with Cruse to address this gap through a school bereavement teacher training programme.

Aim(s) The evaluation examined the impact of the training on the confidence and knowledge of the teaching staff, impact on pupils, changes in school policy and practice since the training, and the barriers and enablers of impact.

Methods We compared the 86 pre and 23 six-month post responses to assess the difference the training had and verified the results using a Mann-Whitney U test for significance. Eight qualitative interviews with teaching staff and trainers were analysed using thematic analysis.

Results The programme was attended by 96 teachers from primary and secondary schools across Northern Ireland. The training had several statistically significant impacts on teachers’ ability to support pupils affected by bereavement, including being able to recognise when a conversation around grief is needed (33% pre and 87% post training). It also increased their confidence, knowledge and ability to support pupils. Training broke down social taboos around talking about death and dying and there were examples of shared learning and changes to policy. Recommendations were made to extend the training to more teaching staff and inform the next stage of training.

Conclusions Evidence suggests that the school bereavement programme had positive outcomes for teaching staff and pupils by improved teachers’ confidence, creating an open environment that supported pupils and parents to deal with their grief.

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