Death and bereavement on primary schools’ timetable

The move has been launched to make children better equipped to cope when someone they know dies. Picture: TSPL
The move has been launched to make children better equipped to cope when someone they know dies. Picture: TSPL
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Children as young as nine are being given school lessons about death to help them cope better with bereavement.

School trips to hospices, class talks about dead relatives and even school “death clubs” are being trialled in a scheme by the University of Strathclyde.

The move has been launched to make children better equipped to cope when someone they know dies. Experts say children have unmet needs around death and bereavement and that including the subject in schools will promote end-of-life and bereavement experiences to children.

But parents’ groups say any move to teach children about death must be done in an age-appropriate way and should not be forced on anyone.

Trials were carried out by the university using expert staff from a hospice working with two schools in the Falkirk area, and backed by the Scottish Government.

Researchers consulted teachers, parents, pupils and hospice staff about how they could introduce the subject.

Results put into practice included creating an education programme about death, illness and bereavement alongside health in the school curriculum as well as raising awareness of the role of the local hospice.

The research was led by Dr Sally Paul, lecturer in the School of Social Work and Social Policy at the university and a former hospice social worker.

She said: “I was aware that children were often referred for specialist bereavement support by parents and other professionals, without being given basic information about what had happened or asked how they were feeling.

“This lack of communication and informal support often impacted negatively on the child’s experience.

“So I was keen to explore how the hospice could work more pro-actively to enhance support for children by people they know and trust.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “A greater openness about death, dying and bereavement is one of the objectives of the Scottish Government’s Strategic Framework for Action on Palliative and End of Life Care.

“This study has identified benefits to hospices, school communities and wider society from joint learning projects with primary children.