The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools

By: Ian Gilbert


Or purchase digital products from our partners:


Size: 174mm x 124mm

Pages : 96

ISBN : 9781845904647

Format: Hardback

Published: August 2010

The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools is written by bestselling author Ian Gilbert together with his three children. It is a very personal account of the way educational institutions tried and succeeded, tried and failed and sometimes didn’t try at all to help William, Olivia and Phoebe come to terms with the death of their mother.

Several months after their mother’s death BBC’s ‘Newsround’ aired a brave and still controversial programme in which four children talked about their losses. This prompted Ian and his children to sit down and think about their own experiences and draw up a list of dos and don’ts that could help steer schools - and indeed all professionals working with children - towards a better understanding of what is needed from them at such a difficult time.

The warmth of reception of this initial fifteen-point handout led the family to expand their advice and suggestions into what has now become The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools, the proceeds of which will go to Nicky’s Way in Suffolk.

“... be inspired by their courage and be brave and make death and bereavement in your school something that can be acknowledged and talked about. It would be really something if a child in your care could one day say, ‘When my Mum died, there was a teacher in my school who really helped me’.”

From the foreword by Yvonne Holman, Nicky’s Way.

Click here to see a feature about bereavement in schools from The Guardian’s Education section.

Schools ‘need support of government to help grieving children’.

Picture for author Ian Gilbert

Ian Gilbert

Since establishing Independent Thinking 25 years ago, Ian Gilbert has made a name for himself across the world as a highly original writer, editor, speaker, practitioner and thinker, and is someone who the IB World magazine has referred to as one of the world's leading educational visionaries.

The author of several books, and the editor of many more, Ian is known by thousands of teachers and young people across the world for his award-winning Thunks books. Thunks grew out of Ian's work with Philosophy for Children (P4C), and are beguiling yet deceptively powerful little philosophical questions that he has created to make children's ' as well as their teachers' ' brains hurt.

Ian's growing collection of bestselling books has a more serious side too, without ever losing sight of his trademark wit and straight-talking style. The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools, born from personal family experience, is finding a home in schools across the world, and The Working Class ' a massive collaborative effort he instigated and edited ' is making a genuine difference to the lives of young people from some of the poorest backgrounds.

A unique writer and editor, there is no other voice like Ian Gilbert's in education today.

See for yourself.

Ian was winner of The Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society's inaugural Educational Writers Award (Nov 2008) for 'The Little Book of Thunks' - Click here for more information on the book.

Re-framing the Education Debate with Independent Thinker, Ian Gilbert.

Click here to read Ian Gilbert’s blog.

Click here to read Ian's article in International Teacher Magazine.


  1. The most important book you could read as a teacher isn't a book on class management or how to motivate the unmotivated.

    It's not a book to help you excel in the classroom or show you how to get your students to excel either.

    It's not a book you'll dip into every day, in fact it's about a subject that you possibly may never need to deal with in a professional capacity.

    At just over 75 pages, it's readable in a couple of hours.

    And, although it is written by one of Education's more well-known names, it's as much down to his children as himself.

    This is the book and here's why we think -˜The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools' by Ian Gilbert is the most important book you could read as a teacher:
    1) The big things in life, the things that really matter, aren't SATs scores or exam grades. They're character-based things like hope and resilience and honesty. They're the things that happen to us that exhilerate us or shake us deep inside. Literally -˜core' things. Character, beliefs and values are far more important than the curriculum. Aren't they?2) Out of all of these -˜big things', dealing with death and coping with grief is surely the biggest anyone will ever have to encounter. This is true of us whatever our age, but especially tough to deal with for children.3) Our job is not just to teach subjects, we have an in loco parentis obligation to nurture, guide and help -” to gently mould characters. To provide support where it's needed. To be bothered. To care.4) Would it not be remiss of us to not take the time, then, to dwell on this most sombre of “big things”? Aren't we obliged (compelled) to be prepared so that if the worst ever happens, we are able to help that student (and his/her family) at the worst time of their lives? Or is something else more important?
    -˜The Little Book of Bereavement for Schools' is a personal book. Following their experiences (good and bad) of how teachers and schools dealt with them when their mother passed away, Ian Gilbert's children worked with their father to come up with a series of pointers when dealing with bereaved children. The book is motivated in equal part by appreciation for teachers who reacted considerately and a frustration (anger at times) with those that didn't. The way you deal with someone else's bereavement is remembered.

    Ian Gilbert and his family speak from experience. Schools don't always get this right. And they should. Headteachers aren't always prepared. And they should be. Class teachers don't always behave with consideration. And they should. To open up enough to write about personal tragedy is admirable on the author's part - to ignore it is negligent on ours.

    If, like us, you think that we have a duty to help pupils through the really big things in life, do consider investing in a copy. Our usual Amazon Associate links aren't appropriate - just Google the book title and get a copy. If you recognise its value, you'll do it. We hope you never need its contents in a professional capacity, but we're not naive enough to suggest that will be the case. In 9 years teaching at KS2, children were bereaved twice in schools we worked at and a colleague also passed away in service.

    Not knowing what to do (or say) when the worst happens isn't an excuse. We owe it to those in our care to be prepared.

    That's why, quite genuinely, no other educational book holds quite the same importance for us.
  2. This book is exactly what it says on its tasteful cream cover - little, about bereavement and for school staff (and other professionals). It has been expanded from an original 15-point A4 sheet compiled by Ian and his three children following the death of his wife and their mother. The children are aged nine, 13 and 18, and each writes with authority based on personal experience about what worked for them and what didn't in the days and months after the bereavement.
    The no-nonsense approach speaks directly to schools: ban gossip about the deaths say something - so much better than saying nothing; provide the child with a safe space at school; acknowledge how exhausting grief can be; talk to the surviving parent; be mindful of anniversaries, and keep open the channels of communication. It tells schools to give their full attention to bereaved children, provide a room near reception for breaking bad news, be vigilant on Mother's Day, train at least one staff member in grief work and teach other children how to cope with grief (their own and that of others).
    The book does not break new ground; there are other publications saying much the same things in slightly different ways. It is not an activity book or manual - for those, try Goldman's (2006) Children Also Grieve and Wells' (1988) Helping Children Cope with Grief.Its appeal lies in its commonsense approach built on personal experience, making it no less invaluable for any school.
  3. A 'little' book on bereavement but with some very 'big' messages about how to help a bereaved child. Aimed primarily at teachers, this is a book that both challenges and inspires. The personal experience of the author's wife's death and the impact this had on his own children come across clearly; Ian Gilbert writes with passion that teachers need to know what to do and say at such a difficult time. He is both direct and honest about what his children found useful and what they did not find useful. The challenge is made explicit for the reader neither to do the wrong thing nor to take the easy option and to do nothing.

    The clarity and directness of style are echoed in the book's structure. The fifteen chapter summaries listed on the Contents page are repeated as a mini introduction to each chapter as the reader comes to them, thereby emphasising the importance of their message. Each chapter then goes into further detail and so by the time you have finished reading the book, you can remember the key points clearly.

    This is a definitely a book which all teachers would find useful and which should be available in school for all to read.
  4. From the foreword to the resources list at the end, I found this a totally absorbing read. When we see a child in any kind of distress we try to alleviate that as quickly as possible. The pain of bereavement is not one that can be rubbed better, or had a sticky plaster put on top of and we can feel at a loss as to how to "Make it better" when in actual fact we cant. Sometimes people can feel that if they ignore it then they wont do any additional harm. It gave the clear message that doing nothing is not an option, and talked quite bluntly of the professional responsibility we have as teachers to build and maintain the well-being of our pupils.

    The mini chapters - each with their own distinctive flavour, built a step-by-step picture of actions a school can take that can (and at times cant) be helpful. I have come away knowing the key things I need to put in place for when (not if) a child is faced with some kind of bereavement in my school. It is a book I shall be recommending to all members of my senior leadership team with a view to including it on the whole staff INSET reading list.

    Many thanks to Ian Gilbert and his family for sharing their experiences in such an open and honest manner. I feel they will have helped many children and staff during terribly difficult and traumatic times, making one of lifes taboo subjects (particularly for those who teach very young children) something which can be discussed.
  5. I have just read Ian Gilbert`s, `Little Book of Bereavement for Schools`. I found it a really insightful and thought provoking book which made me realise the dangers of getting carried away with the busy stuff in school particularly beyond the first few weeks of a bereavement. The fact that the book was written from Ian and his children`s own personal experience made the book extremely poignant. The text is relatively short and easy to read and would certainly be a useful book to have on the school bookshelves in order to support school staff at such an emotional time.
  6. I train Early Years Practitioners in supporting very young children and their families following a bereavement, co-own a playgroup and teach Early years Practitioners on a Foundation Degree at York College.

    Ian Gilbert`s book was recommended by the Child Bereavement Network at the beginning of February this year so I thought although it was aimed at schools I would buy it and have a look.

    I am so glad - it is the best and most usable resource I have come across.
    Although the title suggests it is aimed at schools when you read it there is plenty for ourselves as practitioners to use and people in general to use when meeting and talking with family, friends, neighbours who they know have family members who have died.

    It is easy to read with small chapters so it can be picked up and read in small `chunks` if needed.

    When I go and do any future trainings I will be recommending they buy this book for their practitioners to read and will recommend the book at college.
    Ian, William, Olivia and Phoebe should know what a fabulous book they have written and how much it will help me in my work in getting children`s grief recognised and appropriately supported.
  7. Thanks to Ian Gilbert and his children for a compellingly written book which gives a personal insight into the perspectives, feelings and emotional needs of those who suffer the impact and effects of bereavement. The well written book sends clear messages and guidance to reduce the feelings of loss and isolation. With the increasing incidence of fatalities of peers, family members and others through accidents, substance abuse, illness, etc, this is an excellent resource for teachers, pastoral care managers, youth workers, etc to gain the skills, from a powerful script, to reduce the stress and emotional anguish for a grieving individual or group, who share the experience of death or loss.
  8. Written from the very honest perspective of a family who have recently lost a mother and a wife, the Little Book of Bereavement for Schools provides a very concrete and concise set of guidelines for school professionals to bear in mind when trying to support a bereaved child in the school. The authors, Ian Gilbert and his three children (all at different stages of education), reflect on their bereavement and how this was dealt with by their different schools. The suggestions made are sometimes blunt but honest and they successfully highlight the importance of talking to the child and finding out how they would like to be treated at school at such a difficult time. The anecdotes shared with the reader are personal and emotional, and they provide a strong sense of reality towards an issue that can so often be swept under the carpet at school. The Little Book of Bereavement for schools is a short, easy to read, helpful book that anybody working in a school should take time to read and reflect on.
  9. I am a Parent Support Adviser at a school in North Somerset. I work alongside four Heads of House (similar to Year leaders) and teachers, looking after the Pastoral care of students and parents in our school.

    I have been in this role for 18 months and have become very aware of how many students come to talk about bereavement of a loved one. I felt that for a large secondary school, enough was not being done to support our students.

    One of my colleagues introduced me to `The Little book of Bereavement For Schools`. I was stunned that such a small, simple book could have such a big impact on me! This book summed up the reasons why I felt school was not providing full attention to bereaved children. I love the fact that Ian Gilbert and his family have come up with some direct but enormously valid guidelines in a straightforward, writing style. Points that need to be said and made clear for all staff members who work in schools.

    The points that I particularly remember:

    - You don`t have to say a lot but say something!
    - Encourage students, staff to send cards, emails, talk about the bereavement
    - A teacher can make a big difference in a Young persons life, it`s important to take time to acknowledge how a young persons life will be affected by death

    In my work in school, I will be listening to bereaved children on a regular basis and always keep in mind, the points that this little book raises.
    I will be encouraging as many staff in our school to read this little book and keep it close at hand to refer to. Excellent value and I will continue to try and raise its profile.
  10. A beautiful little book to hold and treasure; it looks at bereavement from a very personal point of view and gives a great deal of practical information to help schools in dealing with the pastoral issues relating to death. Although the book is really about the death of a parent or very close relative, many of the suggestions could be modified to deal with the death of a friend or member of staff.

    The book is divided up into eleven chapters - each one preceded by an outline of what information is in the chapter. For example - Chapter Four `Teach other children to know what to say and how to handle things` and Chapter Six` `Grieving is mentally and physically exhausting`.

    So, how does it suggest you teach children how to know what to say when most adults themselves aren`t sure? Well, by talking about death with the children in RE, Circle time, PSHE and even English and History. Talk to them about the death of famous people as it happens; use the correct vocabulary and avoid euphemisms. He suggests giving children examples of what to say when a real-life scenario occurs `I`m really sorry to hear about the death of your-¦` and he gives valuable tips for children on how to handle friends who are grieving.

    For the senior members of staff in a school who may have to deal with a grieving child and family, this book is a blessing but I would encourage schools to invest in several copies so that staff throughout the school can dip into it at times of need.

    Would that all adults could be lucky enough to read it so that when the inevitable happens, we are all equipped with the right tools to help make the unbearable just a little more bearable.

Write your own review


Similar Books