These guidelines should be read in conjunction with the Clackmannanshire Emergency Planning Unit's document Responding to an Emergency and Management of Critical Events - a guide for Schools.
In recent years there has been an increasing awareness of the impact of traumatic events on individuals, families and communities. Good planning can help to alleviate the impact of such events and change the potential legacy of trauma.
Critical incidents occur regularly. Incidents that are unexpected, sudden and distressing are fairly common. The development of a management plan, fully implemented and monitored, in every school, together with a staff development and training programme will not prevent the occurrence of critical events. However, with preparation and training school personnel will be in a better position to minimise the impact of a critical event on pupils, staff and the school community.
There are sound educational grounds for School Crisis Contingency planning: emotional trauma can have marked effects on academic progress and on behaviour.
Definitions of what constitutes a critical event vary. A commonly used definition is:
Any situation faced by members of a school community causing them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions which have the potential to interfere with their ability to function either at the time the situation arises, or later.
Not all trauma is associated with major incidents. Events which directly affect only one or two individuals may have a wider impact on the school community.
When critical events do occur in school communities, they commonly evoke strong emotional responses in pupils, staff and parents. Pupils and parents will look to the school for support, with an expectation that school staff will help restore the school community to normal functioning. It follows, therefore, that all staff in schools should receive training to deal with critical events.
The Authority recognises their responsibility for training and staff development in the area of critical events and will provide training for all staff in schools.
In recent years it has become evident that individual tragedies, as well as larger scale traumatic events affecting part or whole school communities, occur regularly and can have significant effects on both individuals and the community as a whole.
A planned response can help a school to maintain a sense of control, to respond more effectively, to return more quickly to normal routine, and to minimise the long term effects which critical events may have on staff and pupils.
For large scale events affecting the school as a whole each establishment will have developed a School Emergency plan. Head teachers will ensure that School Emergency plan is regularly reviewed and updated. (If necessary Head teachers can contact the Emergency Planning unit for assistance).
For smaller scale events, for example affecting an individual pupil or staff member or group of pupils, Head teachers should consider school crisis contingency planning.
The following document has been written for head teachers and the senior management team in schools. There are three sections:
The purpose of the guidelines and procedures is to assist schools in School Crisis Contingency Planning and to complement their School Emergency Plan.
The resources section contains a bank of resource materials relevant to the management of critical events for schools.
Contingency plans will have identified potential critical incidents and the in-school crisis management core group.
Management teams need to consider their responses prior to and during the five stages of any critical event:
Perhaps the most important stage is that of school readiness and contingency planning. This will include the systems which the school will put in place for identifying and monitoring children in need or at risk. It will also include the development of the ethos of the school and the opportunities it provides for children and staff to learn about feelings, and about loss or trauma.
The exact nature of any event will largely determine the detail of the plans you will need to make for your immediate, short, medium and long term responses but there are a range of points which can be helpfully considered in advance of any critical event.
School staff will be key figures in any immediate, short term and medium term responses. They may seek additional support from the school psychologist in each of the phases. They may involve other agencies when considering aspects of their medium and long term responses.
School Emergency Plan (large scale events)
Head teachers will ensure their School Emergency Plan is accurate and up to date and that all staff are familiar with it.
'In- School' contingency planning (smaller scale events)
Please refer to the Clackmannanshire Emergency Planning Unit's document 'Responding to an Emergency and Management of Critical Events: a guide for Schools' for guidance and relevant documentation.
Plans should consider who will take over the responsibility for maintaining normal school routines and functions and communication with pupils and staff during the crisis.
Ensure plans cover eventualities if pupils and staff are out of school on school trips/excursions.
Monitoring and Support
Return to School
This may need to stay in place for several years, depending on the magnitude of the events and their impact on the school and community.
Monitor and Review
You can view or download the Guidelines for Management of Critical Events for Schools document which details useful reference material for managers, school staff, parents and pupils.
Resources include reference to a number of key texts on loss and trauma theory and contingency planning, as well as guidelines for interventions with children and young people, and story and workbook material.
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