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Should children learn about loss and bereavement in schools?

Back to Making our Mark
Our student's voices reached, the UK commission on bereavement, child bereavement UK, Winston's Wish and AtaLoss

In January 2022, we were really proud to team up with The UK Commission on Bereavement to support them in their work and to ask our children how they felt about the teaching of loss and bereavement in schools.

Meeting them, we were able to better understand the issues surrounding this very sensitive topic, and to take a steer from them in the direction our resources should go. We were also able to connect our children with their surveys, so they could be directly heard by the Commission.

On October 6th, their full report Bereavement is Everyone's Business was published and widely acknowledged, including our friends at The National Children’s Bureau People should talk more about grieving you , it’s normal you know. (We have been working alongside their Anti-Bullying Alliance for the past 3 years in supporting Anti-Bullying Week.)

Student voice

young girl sat sadly against a wall

"We think it's something you should be able to talk about with grownups at school, but some people don't feel comfortable to teach it as a whole class lesson and share personal feelings." Primary school, Rutland

"Everyone deals with loss so differently that adding this to the curriculum would simply be ticking a box - more support should be available in school to help with this." Secondary school, North Yorkshire

"If it is going to be taught, it should be taught when children are young, because losing someone can happen at any point in a child's life - not just high school or college. It would help to be prepared and for this topic to be freely discussed, not taboo." College, West Yorkshire

loss and bereavement results

What do the results tell us?

Interestingly, young people were divided on whether learning how to cope with loss and bereavement should be included on the curriculum and each age bracket hovered relatively closely to a 50/50 split. Grief is an extremely sensitive topic to discuss and the lack of a clear result from our student's votes reflects that sensitivity.

Better access to resources, support for student mental health and more school funding for counsellors and specialists were all ideas put forward by those students who weren't convinced that lessons in coping with loss and bereavement were the best way forward.

Making our mark

We cover many sensitive topics that teachers find hard to address, but this one was particularly well received by the teachers and children alike and they were rewarded with some great feedback to their votes and comments.

See below to hear from Dame Sarah Mullally, who is the Bishop of London and Chair of the UK Commission on Bereavement, about her thoughts on the vote results and comments. She also gives an update on what the Commission are going to do next with the information and thoughts that were shared with them.

See below to hear from Tracey Boseley, who is the National Development Lead for the Education Sector for Child Bereavement UK.

And the feedback didn't stop there

"Death is something that impacts us all during our lives, so having the opportunity to learn about bereavement and developing the skills and understanding to deal with this life event could be an important part of the curriculum. Did you know that on average, 1 in every 29 children will be bereaved of a parent? That’s one in every class. It’s interesting to see that primary age students think differently to secondary school students on this question. We understand that it’s a really difficult topic but if handled sensitively and appropriately it can give pupils the tools to cope with the death of someone close to them and teach them how best to support a grieving friend – a skill they will use throughout their lifetime."

Susie Gallagher

Head of Communications and Marketing at Winston's Wish

Winstons Wish Logo

"Although loss and bereavement are really sad topics I think it is useful to know what it might feel like so that you can be assured that you are normal! Loss comes into all areas of our lives from moving to a new school to losing a tooth. It’s not just to do with death. Some losses are much more painful than losing a tooth though!"

Pete English

Project Leader for Listening People from At A Loss

At a Loss logo

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