My school lost a pupil this year #DSL guide

My school lost a pupil this year. Looking back I realised that I haven’t posted a blog since then. It feels almost like I am being a fraud posting about safeguarding, when we…….. are struggling. But relaxing this holiday has made me realise that although hard, sharing my experience of what schools might need to do if they find that they are ever in the same position is important, and that is the whole reason I started to blog post.

Obviously time of year has a huge implication and variation on what you do as a school but there are five main groups that you as a school need to be considerate of. The pupils family, the pupils close friends, the staff, the pupils wider group of friends and the rest of the school. The Head and DSL can’t support all of these groups so you need to be honest and split who can do what. Here is what we did.
The pupils family communicate the school and was put through straight to the Headmaster. It was during the holidays so he maintained communication with them, letting key staff know info that was needed. Key staff went to visit the parents although not until school started. TIP: have SLT chats throughout the holiday to support each other and don’t just expect the one who isn’t on a beach somewhere to do all the work.
I as, DSL focused on the staff and pupils. Although split these groups into sub sections and had pastoral leaders, supporting each other as much as possible. I remembered in my safeguarding training mention of what to do but couldn’t for the life of me recall exactly what to do. It was the holidays so I didn’t have the key documents with me. TIP: DSL keep as much info as possible to hand. So I rang and emailed the person who trained me. Lucky she got back to me within 12 hours and gave me a link person. This is where is got complicated. I was also suggested to ring Samaritans, local bereavement groups, (Centre 33)and CHAMPS. Which I did. In total I made 34 phone calls and emailed 8 different organisations, some returned my call in a couple of hours, some who I won’t shame didn’t return my call for 2 weeks. I started to get confused about who I was phoning and what they could offer us as a school to support the pupils and staff. Some would only see staff for counselling and others only offered support for groups of students. TIP: write down names and direct numbers and specific info and carry with you. They will also ask if your ok, when all you really want is specific dates for counselling sessions. There was a point when I was concerned that we wouldn’t have any support in place for the staff on the first day back.
Our link LSCB worker was fab, she contacted all local doctors and CAMH to let them know so if any student came into surgery or they were seeing, then they knew to be aware. They found out the details of the close friends and gave us clear instructions in what to do re contact. We had three trips going in the holiday ( one of which was jumping out of airplane) and we were unsure if the pupils all knew. We didn’t want them finding out in the minibus on the way. They guided us with what to do. They came in for an emergency meeting, which was attended by so many specialist I got lost. Our safeguarding governor also attended, which helped support the key staff. This was before school returned from the easter. break, giving us guidance on what to do during the inset day for the staff and what to do on those first few days back. The student most affected were in the U6th and in the middle of mock examinations. So we needed guidance with this. Assembly were pre written and they read through and gave advice, I cannot sing their praise enough. They were with us the whole week and have since followed up checking how we were, giving us advice on how to deal with things like leavers ball and leavers services.
My staff struggled but with the support from them, we helped each other and the students and I cannot thank them enough. I also found that I DM people who I don’t even know to ask for help and this was great. I hope that one day I can help someone if they ever need me.

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Assistant Head ( DSL) at a boarding school. Interested in all PSHE and safeguarding topics.

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