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Managing bereavement in the classroom: a conspiracy of silence?

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Lowton, K.; Higginson, I. J.

The ways in which teachers in British schools manage bereaved children are underreported.This article reports the impact of students’ bereavement and their subsequent management in primary and secondary school classrooms in Southeast London.Thirteen school staff working in inner-city schools took part in in-depth interviews that focused on the impact of bereaved children on the school and how teachers responded to these children.All respondents had previously had contact with a local child bereavement service that aims to provide support, advice, and consultancy to children, their parents, and teachers.Interviews were audiotaped, transcribed verbatim, and analyzed using ATLAS-ti.Three main themes were identified from analysis of interview data. Firstly, British society, culture, local communities, and the family were significant influences in these teachers’ involvement with bereaved students. Secondly, school staff managed bereaved students through contact with other adults and using practical classroom measures such as "time out" cards and contact books. Lastly, teachers felt they had to be strong, even when they were distressed.Surprise was expressed at the mature reaction of secondary school students to deaths of others.The article recommends that future research needs to concentrate on finding the most effective way of supporting routinely bereaved children, their families, and teachers.

Research abstracts