With 70% of schools estimated to have a recently-bereaved child on their roll, Noah’s Ark and North London Hospice are helping teachers to support children at this difficult time.

Now in its second year, the Supporting Young People Facing Bereavement study day provides valuable guidance to teaching staff. The latest day, on 2 February, saw 17 teachers from Barnet, Enfield and Hertsmere attend workshops at North London Hospice’s Health and Wellbeing Centre in Winchmore Hill.

Catherine Toohey, Family Link Manager at Noah’s Ark was among the day’s trainers. As she explained: “Death is still very much a taboo subject, meaning that many people find talking to a bereaved person difficult. Although highly-experienced at communicating with young people, teachers are no exception.

“There is a widespread fear of responding badly, which sometimes stops people from reaching out to a bereaved person, leaving them isolated. Bereavement training helps people understand the grieving process and how to listen and respond.”

North London Hospice Practice Educator Jackie Somerville added: “Our study day helps teaching staff reflect on their own feelings and experiences of bereavement first and then provides them with tools to support children as they work through their own period of grief.”

The latest event included thought-provoking discussions as well as practical sessions using play. Noah’s Ark Specialist Play Worker, Vikki Kempster led a session, which saw participants making memory jars; using layers of coloured salt to represent different aspects of someone they wanted to remember.

Says Catherine: “It’s about getting a different perspective – understanding how young people feel to have lost someone close, whether parent, grandparent, sibling, friend or classmate. The knowledge gained doesn’t only help after a death but with other types of loss too; for example when young people have left their home country in difficult circumstances.”

The study days are an example of collaboration by North London Hospice and Noah’s Ark. The two charities are also working together to facilitate a youth group for 15 to 18-year-olds living with life-threatening or life-limiting conditions, as well as further services for young adults at the Wellbeing Centre in Winchmore Hill.

To find out more about future study days and training events call Jodie Wheeler, Education Coordinator at North London Hospice on 020 8343 8841, email jwheeler@northlondonhospice.co.uk or visit the North London Hospice website.