Critical incidents (schools)

In terms of a response by the Critical Incident Team, a critical incident can be defined as "any event or sequence of events which overwhelms the normal coping mechanisms of the school".

Emergencies and critical incidents, although infrequent, can cause disruption to the school day and require immediate action. Tragic events such as the sudden death or suicide of a member of a school community can result in intense feelings of anxiety, guilt or anger in pupils and staff.  Helping pupils and staff deal with their grief reactions will reduce the likelihood that one critical incident will lead to further unfortunate events.

The aim of the guidance is to outline the role of the school in being proactive:

  • in preparing for critical incidents
  • in responding to critical incidents

When a tragic event happens the Educational Psychology Service response generally involves:

  • Helping school management to assess the significance and impact of the event, to draw up a plan, to mobilise the schools resources and to access other support systems.
  • Providing information and advice to management and staff as they come to terms with the situation.
  • Being available for consultation to school staff as they support the students. This may involve support meetings at the beginning and end of the school day.
  • Working with teachers to identify students who are most in need of support, and developing procedures for reviewing their needs and supporting onward referral, if necessary.

The guidance provides information in relation to:

  • Setting up response teams
  • Developing an action plan/planned response
  • Communication with staff, pupils, parents and the media
  • Checklists and sample letters/announcements
  • Advice in relation to understanding and coping with grief

Responding to Critical Incidents (Schools) - Information Pack (MS Word, 106KB)

Contact the Educational Psychology Service for further information and advice on 01824 708064.

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