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An exploration of bereavement support provision in primary schools

Costelloe, Ailbhe; (2018) An exploration of bereavement support provision in primary schools. Doctoral thesis (D.Ed.Psy), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Child bereavement is associated with a range of negative psychological, academic and long-term outcomes (Parsons, 2011). Many authors argue that schools are well positioned to provide support to bereaved children following their experience of a loss (e.g. Abdelnoor & Hollins, 2004). However, there is little empirical evidence to support this position as there is a significant gap in research exploring Bereavement Support Provision (BSP) in schools. This research adopts a mixed-methods design to explore BSP in primary schools and school staff’s understanding of children’s grief. Participants were primary school staff across 14 primary schools in one London Local Authority. Phase 1 (n=260) consisted of a questionnaire which aimed to examine current BSP practices in schools and understanding of children’s grief. Phase 2 (n=16) consisted of semi-structured interviews that were used to explore perspectives of school staff on their experience of supporting a bereaved child. The findings highlighted that there is no systematic procedure for identifying a bereavement within the school system. BSP is characterised by social and emotional support and other indirect responses, such as a referral to external agencies. Several individual and systemic factors influenced BSP, such as developmental needs, relationships, personal experiences, internal and external communication and support from external agencies. Providing support to a bereaved child had a negative impact on the emotional well-being of staff, which was exacerbated by a lack of systemic support. Support for staff, such as training in bereavement and loss, is needed. Qualitative data revealed that staff have an informed understanding of children’s grief, with personal experience of loss enhancing this understanding. In contrast, exploratory quantitative analysis indicated that training, supporting a child bereaved of a sibling and responding to a child’s loss by a referral to external agencies are significantly associated with understanding children’s grief. The implications these findings have for Educational Psychologists are discussed.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: D.Ed.Psy
Title: An exploration of bereavement support provision in primary schools
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Psychology and Human Development
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10055540
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