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Support and Monitoring

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Support Processes

Support Processes
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In this section the facilitator will cover key content for the setting up of supportive processes in order to increase the school’s preparedness for critical incidents.

The school needs to have a clear critical incident policy, including processes and procedures detailing what to do and when. This will include clarity regarding what constitutes a critical incident (See earlier definition). It will also include content regarding the development of a robust Critical Incident Team, so that there are multiple staff who could lead on an incident, should personal circumstances (e.g. loss, health issues, stress, changes) of certain senior leaders prohibit their involvement. It is key that the policy is shared and discussed with staff and that they feel a sense of ownership over it through development or contribution. It also needs to include content upon potential sources of support following an incident.

The school also needs to ensure that staff and leaders have ongoing and updated knowledge and awareness of bereavement and loss using reliable and trusted, evidence-based resources, for example ‘Loss and Grief’ (MindEd).

The school will benefit from the development of a whole school approach to promoting well-being, prioritising the well-being of staff. This needs to incorporate the development of a policy which includes content on promoting and monitoring the well-being of the Critical Incident Team in particular. Appropriate resources may include the New Economics Foundation Model of Five Ways to Wellbeing (2008).

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In this section, the facilitator will cover content on the support needed for individuals and groups once an incident has occurred.

The rationale for starting with ‘self-support’ here is to encourage those leading on critical incidents to prioritise planning for their own support network during the incident e.g. peer support, family support, support from external professionals e.g. EP, HR etc. It is acknowledged in such circumstances, leaders tend to prioritise the needs of others and give insufficient attention to their own needs.

As the next consideration, the Critical Incident Team need to start to consider individuals or groups of individuals who may be impacted most by the incident. This may include individuals present at the incident, family members, members of the local or school community. Although assumptions should not be made about an individual’s response, vulnerabilities might include recent loss or bereavement, unresolved trauma or cultural sensitivity. It is important to consider the specific circumstances of the event and the wider potential impact upon specific individuals, groups and organisations.

A key element of this section is to emphasise that children are best supported by those they know and trust. The temptation is often to call in specialist counsellors immediately following an incident, however research has established that this can be counter productive as it potentially pathologises natural grief responses and limits self-efficacy. Collaboratively develop a hierarchy of support, ranging from universal to individual support. Work alongside individuals to tailor-make support plans, which prioritises both the practical and emotional implications of the incident. One additional element to consider may be to designate a room or space for individuals to talk. This decision is not dependent upon the size or scale of the incident. The safeguarding of the adults offering support in this space is key – they are not offering therapy or counselling but offering a listening or validation space. Schools may benefit from providing a range of materials (e.g. drawing, writing, music, story books, sensory, toys etc.) within this space to allow individuals to communicate or express their emotions in a way which feels most appropriate for them and suits their coping preference. Ensure that a rota system is developed so that individuals are not overloaded.

The following document, Critical Incident Checklist, provides some guidance which can help a school to consider a range of factors in relation to critical incidents. It gives the reader some prompts but is not an exhaustive list and not intended to be used prescriptively. It is also useful to consider this document in relation to preparedness for any future critical incidents e.g. making sure number lists are updated regularly; having a team established.

Principles of Support

Principles of Support

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Within this section, the facilitator will summarise best practice from the research in relation to supporting people immediately following incidents. Hobfoll et al. (2007) identified five intervention principles that have empirical support to guide intervention practices and programmes. These principles are seen as core elements of intervention and will help in the process of setting policy and designing an intervention strategy. Access the full paper here

Promote a sense of safety

The facilitators will summarise the impact of traumatic events upon the biological responses of individuals. This will be expanded upon during a later part of the training in the section ‘Recovery and Adjustment.’ Schools need to ensure that key factual information is presented, even if the full picture is not yet known. When presented in the context of strong leadership, this can limit the impact of rumours e.g. on social media and promote a sense of safety. Key safety messages reduce the cycle of rumination.

Safety messages aim to re–link images, people, and events with safety, for example: -

It was a highly unusual set of circumstances that led to the event.


All agencies are working together to look after the community.


It is normal to try to guess what might have happened in these circumstances – we are communicating with the police and will keep you updated with the facts when we have more information.

Promote a sense of calm

Following incidents, strong and diverse emotions are experienced. Most people return to manageable levels of emotion within days or weeks. Approaches found to be calming include yoga, breathing exercise, muscle relaxation, mindfulness, listening to or playing music. The facilitators will reference the earlier content on psychoeducation here and the importance of ‘normalisation’ of strong physical, emotional and cognitive reactions. It is also important that individuals are aware of the potential positive impact of noticing and fostering positive emotions following incidents e.g. giving oneself ‘permission’ to watch a film that makes you feel happy or laugh, continuing to engage in enjoyable hobbies or activities, continuing to celebrate success etc. Sleep hygiene is an essential element here. When people are well rested, this can promote a sense of calm and sense of control.

Promote self-efficacy and community efficacy

Self-efficacy is an individual’s belief that their actions are likely to lead to positive outcomes. Community efficacy is the belief that one belongs to a group that is likely to experience positive outcomes. When trauma is experienced, there is a risk that individuals or groups lose their sense of competency to manage events. This sense of diminished capability can be generalised to other events. Identifying and utilising existing personal and group resources to facilitate positive change beyond the self, can mitigate this risk.


Examples may be to: -  

  • involve those affected in decision–making and planning.

  • support engagement in age–appropriate, adult–guided memorial activities.

  • continue to provide meaningful learning opportunities.

  • remind individuals of their efficacy and existing coping strategies.

Promote a sense of connectedness

The facilitator will refer to the large body of research on the central importance of social support and sustained attachments to loved ones and social groups in combating stress and trauma. It has the benefit of increasing knowledge regarding wider community support following the incident and promotes a sense of community cohesion. Other benefits include social support, social activities, practical problem solving, emotional understanding and acceptance, sharing of experiences and coping strategies and normalisation of reactions. Following the attack of September 11th in New York and following terrorist attacks in Israel, one of the most common responses was to identify and to link with loved ones. Delay in making connections to loved ones was a major risk factor following the London bombings of 2005.

Examples may be to: -

  • identify those who lack strong social support and keep them connected.

  • provide formalised support where informal social support may be lacking.

  • encourage social connections and a return to previous activities e.g. continue with sports / recreational activities.

  • encourage communication/listen, but do not question or ask for details about the event.

  • promote the understanding that each individual responds differently.


Instilling hope

The final component of support is the critical element of instilling hope in those affected. According to Antonovsky, hope is defined as ‘a feeling of confidence that one’s internal and external environments are predictable and that there is a high probability that things will work out as well as can reasonably be expected.’ Trauma often engenders a ‘shattered worldview’ (Janoff-Bulman, 1992); the vision of a shortened future (American Psychiatric Association, 1994) and catastrophising. First prioritise support for practical considerations for those affected – housing, meals, clothing, travel etc.


It should be pointed out that there is a danger of hinging hope on an internal sense of agency alone. In fact, there is a place for external resources (people, books, art, poetry) to inspire hope and expectancy.


The Positive Psychology Model (Seligman, Steen, Park & Peterson, 2005) identifies the goals of identifying, amplifying and concentrating on building personal strengths and by implication community strengths.


Interventions / approaches informed by the principles of Psychological First Aid can facilitate fact-based thinking and stimulate a vision for a future beyond the current circumstance. Encourage normalisation of responses and the sharing of recovery successes.

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Imagine a child in your school has died suddenly, for instance through a road traffic crash. Now, imagine a close friend of the deceased who has been impacted by the death of their friend.


Think about three specific ways in which you would support that bereaved child in your school, using all the resources that are available to you, including staff; past experience or a new idea. 


Possible responses might include:

  • Meeting with the young person to let them know the range of support available e.g. designated room with key person support, telephone helplines, leaflets, peer support.

  • Sharing information with the young person about grief and bereavement and its impact.

  • Sharing information with the young person about managing their well-being.

  • Working with the young person to develop their own support/safety or well-being plan.

Click here to access some ideas for supporting primary and secondary pupils.


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The Monitoring Matrix is a tool that can be used in order to identify and monitor children and young people who may require additional support following a critical incident.  The information you record on the matrix will include the name of the child, their year group and the reason you consider them to be vulnerable following the incident.  You’ll also record the name of a nominated adult from your staff who will be responsible for monitoring their wellbeing, as well as the action you as an educational setting will be putting in place to support the child or young person.  Finally, you’ll rate your level of concern about the child, with 3 being your highest level of concern and 0 being no concern and you’ll monitor these ratings regularly.  If the concern ratings stay high, you’ll need to evaluate and adjust your level of support. When making this adjustment, it will be helpful to consider your own support from within the setting and, in some cases, the need for support from external services.


It’s important when planning your action to support your vulnerable children to:

  • Build on systems already in place in your school/setting

  • Start from where the young person is – using their voice


See the video below which demonstrates the process of completing the tool. In this hypothetical example, the Monitoring Matrix is being used following the suicide of a Year 10 pupil called Kyle.

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Please be mindful that this video only demonstrates a few ideas for supporting pupils. 


You would also need to be mindful of individual staff members who may be vulnerable due to personal or professional life events or circumstances, holding in mind the importance of staff privacy.


Another consideration for the school would be to monitor social media  e.g. if the incident is a suicide, ensure there are not posts glorifying the act of suicide or the deceased.  

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