Queen Elizabeth II death: How teachers can explain the Queen's death to children

Right now, it feels like one of those moments. Whether forced or compelled, the attention of so many, in part or fully, is with the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.

A monarch who sealed her place in history with a life that lasted 96 years and a reign spanning seven decades, the longest of any British monarch.

For so many, she was a constant figure in their lives, whether they realised it or wanted to accept it - someone that is at the moment being referred to repeatedly by commentators on news bulletins as “the nation’s grandmother”.

A strange dichotomy exists, between those who mourn the loss of the nation’s figurehead, someone who symbolised a type of dignified and composed leadership, a gateway to a bygone era of Britishness that is still so venerated and adored.

The hearse carrying the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II, draped with the Royal Standard of Scotland, after crossing over the Queensferry Crossing as it continues its journey to Edinburgh from Balmoral. Picture: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

Advertisement

Hide Ad

Read More

Read More
Queen borne aloft on her final flight from Scotland after huge five-day operatio...

And on the other hand, those who view the memory of the Queen as an uncomfortable reminder of colonialism and empire; not to mention some of the other scandals to befall the Windsors in more recent times.

So how do teachers deal with all of this? Should it just be another day in the classroom? Is it appropriate for time to be taken from planned lessons and activities to discuss the passing of the Queen? What if teachers themselves are too upset to have any such conversations with pupils, or what if their personal views mean that they have no interest and therefore no desire to discuss what has happened?

I asked the above questions to a selection of students, teachers, and parents to gather their thoughts and opinions and it is fair to say the responses were a very ‘broad church’ indeed.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

One teacher spoke about an assembly being held in their school for S1 pupils, led by a head teacher wearing a black tie standing in front of a flag at half-mast with an image of the Queen displayed on a screen; the response of one pupil was “how cringe”. Other teachers informed me they have been utilising resources available from BBC Newsround and Twinkl to discuss the “feelings” of pupils in their classrooms who are perhaps struggling right now when there is such a sustained focus on matters of loss and bereavement.

Of the parents that I was able to speak with, one said to me that it should be “business as usual” with there being no need “for excessive time” spent in classrooms discussing the Queen’s passing. It was a point that was echoed by a student who went on to say that there “are more significant societal issues that need to be discussed right now”. Yet, amongst all this, another parent expressed to me their concerns about the ability of young people to properly understand the significance of what has happened, going on to say that teachers should play a role “in discussing what has happened”.

Maybe then it all comes down to what we believe the purpose of education to be. If it is something resolute, the delivery of a prescribed curriculum with no room for deviation, then events such as the passing of the Queen are unlikely to ever have any impact on teaching and learning.

But, on the other hand, if the curriculum and those who deliver it are to be adaptive, responsive and flexible in their pedagogy, then maybe the death of a monarch is one of those events in history that ensures no two days in teaching are ever the same.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

- Paul Hamilton is a history teaching fellow at the University of Edinburgh

 0 comments

Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.