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Closed petition Add content on death, dying and bereavement to the national curriculum

Schools should be required to provide age-appropriate education to help children understand death as a part of life, as part of compulsory Relationships education. On average 111 children in the UK lose a parent every day.

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Talking about death can be helpful for children and issues of bereavement should be compulsory learning for children in preparation for life as an adult. Children are taught how life begins through the national curriculum and similarly we should not hide from equipping children the skills to comprehend death. Children must be provided with the skills to comprehend loss and to prepare for the emotions and feelings that accompany a bereavement which at some point, we all have to face.

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Government responded

This response was given on 13 March 2023

Bereavement can be taught about as part of relationships and health education in an age-appropriate way. When we review the statutory guidance, we will assess whether content on bereavement is needed.

Read the response in full

We know that experiencing bereavement at a young age can have a significant impact on a child and that schools have a role to play to help children deal with the emotional impact of such a loss.

Through compulsory relationships and health education, pupils are taught about families and people who care for them and how to recognise healthy and unhealthy relationships. In health education pupils are taught about mental wellbeing and physical health, with a view to giving them the information they need to make good decisions about their own health and wellbeing, recognise issues in themselves and others and, when issues arise, seek support as early as possible from appropriate sources.

The Relationships, Sex and Health Education (RSHE) statutory guidance makes clear that teachers should be aware of common adverse childhood experiences, including bereavement, and understand when and how these may be affecting any of their pupils.

This will help teachers to tailor their lessons accordingly, taking decisions on appropriate resources and support to enable them to teach the curriculum effectively.

The Department for Education (DfE) is undertaking the first review of the RSHE statutory guidance and will consider the points made by this petition. As part of the review process, the DfE will undertake a public consultation. Respondents will be able to comment on the proposed changes and to propose additional changes for consideration.

Details of the consultation for the review of the RSHE curriculum will be published on the GOV.UK website

It is important to acknowledge that staff in schools are not mental health, bereavement or trauma specialists. However, they are well placed to observe children day-to-day and identify those whose behaviour suggests that they may be going through a difficult time.

To support schools to respond effectively, the Department is offering a grant of £1,200 to all state schools and colleges in England to train a senior mental health lead who can put in place an effective approach to mental health and wellbeing Senior mental health leads can support staff training.

As part of the help we offered in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, we provided a list of resources for schools to draw on in supporting pupils’ mental health and wellbeing. This list includes signposting the Childhood Bereavement Network, Hope Again and resources from the Anna Freud Centre on supporting children dealing with loss and bereavement.

The DfE continues to work closely with the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) around issues of children and young people’s mental health and how to provide support to pupils as early as possible.

Department for Education

Registry of bereaved children debated by MPs

On Tuesday 28 March, Christine Jardine MP led a Westminster Hall debate in Parliament on the potential merits of a registry of bereaved children.

Watch the debate, read the transcript of what was said in it, and access other relevant material:

What are Westminster Hall debates? 

Westminster Hall is the second Chamber of the House of Commons.  

Westminster Hall debates give MPs an opportunity to raise local or national issues and receive a response from a government minister. Any MP can take part in a Westminster Hall debate. 

Debates in Westminster Hall take place on ‘general debate' motions expressed in neutral terms. These motions are worded ‘That this House has considered [a specific matter]'. This means that Westminster debates don’t end in a vote on a particular action or decision.

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Debate on petition about children and bereavement

We previously told you that this petition would be debated on 17 June 2024.

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