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Saturday 18 November 2017

Experts to help schools deal with tragedy

Gardai investigate the discovery of the Hawe family at a house at Barconey, Ballyjamesduff in Cavan. Picture: Arthur Carron
Gardai investigate the discovery of the Hawe family at a house at Barconey, Ballyjamesduff in Cavan. Picture: Arthur Carron
Katherine Donnelly

Katherine Donnelly

The two primary schools directly affected by the tragedy immediately called in psychologists to help them deal with the aftermath.

The Department of Education's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is available to offer first-hand advice and support to school communities in such situations.

A department spokesperson said the NEPS offers support to schools at "a potentially overwhelming time".

In any given year, about 100 or so requests are made involving the full range of trauma types, the spokesperson said.

While schools may call in the NEPS after a tragedy, as part of its wider brief, the service assists schools in preparing for eventualities that can adversely affect pupils and teachers.

The NEPS has issued schools with "critical incident" guidelines detailing preventive approaches that they can adopt in creating a safe and supportive environment, how they can plan for crises, and offers practical guidelines on how to respond when a tragedy occurs.


The guidelines are designed to deal with traumatic incidents such as suicide or suspected suicide, murder, accidental death including road traffic accidents and drowning, and death through illness of members of the school community.

In relation to suicide, advice is also given on prevention and positive mental health stratagems and approaches.

Among the pointers in the document is advice for teachers on how to handle a classroom session following news of a critical incident. It advises that the class teacher, class tutor or another teacher who knows students well should be the person to inform them of the event and lead the classroom discussion.

"Students generally fell safe and secure with someone they know. If a teacher feels uncomfortable with this role, another staff member may share the task," the guidelines recommend.

The documents states that the aim of such a session is to break the news, to give the students an opportunity to discuss what has happened and to express their thought and feelings in a secure environment.

The nine-step programme for a classroom discussion ends with a focus on the future, including what to do with a person's empty chair, followed by free time for students, in the playground or classroom. Teachers are also advised of the value of continuing the discussion, as the need arises, in the days afterwards.

If you have been affected by issues in this article, you can free-phone the Samaritans on 116 123

Irish Independent

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