Examples of types of critical incidents that might involve the EP Service include:
· The sudden death of a member of staff or a pupil attending a school
· A serious accident involving pupils or staff members
· A major fire in a school/setting
· An event witnessed outside of the school setting (such as a serious assault or accident).
Essex Educational Psychology Service has experienced Educational Psychologists who can respond rapidly during a critical incident. Senior Specialist Educational Psychologists are trained to take a lead role in this work. The EP Service co-ordinate support for a significant number of schools across Essex each year.
The EP Service response to a critical incident usually falls in to one of the following 3 levels as well as development work with schools (which could be before an incident happens or as a result of):
Development: Advice or training to school or service on loss, bereavement and how to support pupils and each other. An incident may not impact on the whole school. Support could be development work such as writing School/Critical Incident Management Plans or policies (S/CIMP)
Level 1: Advice or support to a school or service in response to a critical incident where there is an impact on the school community where the staff can cope with this themselves, perhaps with some reassurance/information/signposting to resources
Level 2: Response to a school or service where a significant critical incident impacts heavily on the whole school community.
Level 3: A major incident which may impact on the whole local community. The EP Service work is likely to be part of a larger Local Authority / multi-agency response.
The level of response to a critical incident will be determined between the school, the EP service and other services involved (eg EWMHS). A description of the incident or event in itself will not necessarily indicate what level of response will be required - the level of impact within a school community and the School's own wants/needs are more of an indicator.
Examples of EP Service input including the following:
· Initial consultation with the School Senior Management Team.
· Advice on an appropriate plan of action and prioritising actions.
· Advice to school staff and parents on appropriate ways of understanding and managing children and young people's reactions.
· Short-term individual or group emotional support for those staff, parents or pupils who may want or need this. This work will always be done in conjunction with school staff. Emotional support can include a safe space for people to speak about how they are feeling (should they want to); messages of reassurance and information about reactions to traumatic events; consideration of how people are coping with the situation and resources they can draw further upon.
· Guidance on identifying vulnerable individuals or groups within the school community (be that staff / children & young people or families) and support with referrals to appropriate support services for those who may experience longer-term difficulties.
· Liaison and co-ordination, if appropriate of other services providing support / services to school following a critical incident (e.g. EWMHS).
Loss and bereavement are part of everyday life. People generally find that others already in their lives can provide sufficient support to help them grieve and manage distress. Up to 70% of schools have a bereaved pupil on their role at any one time. Schools can be 'bereavement aware' within their school culture to support those pupils, staff and parents within their school community who are grieving.
A lot can already be done through school:
· Including discussions of loss and bereavement in the school curriculum and well-being/pastoral systems.
· Following school policy around loss and bereavement (ensuring that they have a Critical Incident Management Plan/Policy and ideally would include a policy on the schools approach to bereavement)
· Responding to pupils questions and concerns in this area.
When staff and pupils take up opportunities across the school day to talk about loss, grief and other emotions, a dialogue and language is being developed and this can be very helpful if the school experiences a sudden death or terminal illness of someone within the school community. By talking about ways in which we can cope with/manage distress and support one another, the groundwork is being laid for such support to be put into action if and when the school community experiences a loss.
Schools will already have support strategies or policies in place but may wish to have a consultation with an Educational Psychologist (EP) for example, if a school wishes develop their policies, plans or become more 'bereavement aware'.
Events may arise that may not be sudden or traumatic which still impact on pupils/staff within the school community such as coping with the terminal illness of a member of the school community. Your school link EP can support your school.