Critical Incident Policy
Introductory Statement: This policy has been formulated by the Principal in consultation with the B.O.M. and staff in response to the perceived necessity of a comprehensive strategy should a critical incident occur.
Rationale: The purpose of the policy is to protect the well being of pupils and staff through the provision of a safe nurturing environment.
Relationship to Characteristic Spirit of the School: Ballyleague N.S. is concerned with the spiritual, physical, emotional, intellectual development of the child, values diversity and respect, in a supportive environment, in partnership with parents, parish and community.
• A critical incident is recognised as “an incident” or sequence of events which overwhelms the normal coping mechanisms of the school
• Critical incidents may involve one or more students or staff members, of members of our local community.
Types of incidents might include the following:
• The death of a member of the school community through accident, violence, suicide, suspected suicide or unexpected death.
• An intrusion into the school
• An accident involving members of the school community
• An accident/tragedy in the wider community
• Serious damage to the school building through fire, flood, vandalism etc
• The disappearance of a member of the school community
Aim: The aim of the Critical Incident Policy is to help school management and staff to react quickly and effectively in the event of an incident to enable the maintenance of a sense of control, to ensure that appropriate support is offered to students and staff, to minimize distress, to facilitate return to normality as soon as possible.
Creation of a coping Supportive caring Environment in the School: Are addressed through the implementation of physical and psychological measures within the school community.
Physical Safety: Physical safety is addressed via the following measures.
• Classroom supervision
• Yard supervision
• Code of Discipline
• Health and Safety Policy (from school gate locked, vehicle entrance closed)
• Fire Drill and Evacuation Plan
• Fire extinguishers and fire exits checked regularly
Phychological Safety: Psychological safety is addressed via the following programmes to address the personal and social development of students, to enhance a sense of safety and security in the school and to provide opportunities for reflection and discussion.
• Religion – Alive O Programme
• S.P.H.E. is integrated into the work of the school, addressing such issues as loss, communication skills, stress and anger management, conflict management, problem solving, seeking help, bullying, decision making, alcohol and substance misuse. Promotion of mental health is an integral ongoing part of the provision. Stay Safe and R.S.E. programmes are implemented respectively every second year.
• Staff members are familiar with “Children First” guidelines and procedures on how to proceed with suspicions or disclosures of child abuse.
• The school implements a code of discipline.
• The school has a clear anti bullying policy.
• The school will express concerns to parents where appropriate
• The school will liaise with the H.S.E, N.E.P.S., and Dept. of Ed & Sc., and other trained professionals
Management of Critical Incident Policy: The principal and vice principal will have over all responsibility for the implementation of the plan. However, every teaching staff member will be provided with a folder, containing the details of the plan. The policy will be available also to staff on computer. Parent and child contact details are reviewed annually at the start of the school year.
Roles and Responsibilities: The principal will assume the role of team leader, garda liaison, staff liaison, community liaison, media liaison initially. The principal will communicate with the Chairman of the B.O.M. and the vice-principal immediately. As the situation unfolds roles may be delegated among staff and Board of Management. The principal where necessary will also liaise with pupils and parents. However, the class teacher may be best placed to liaise with the pupils and parents in her care depending on the nature of the situation.
Team Leader: Alerts the Chairman and Vice Principal of the crisis and convenes a meeting as soon as possible
• Liaises with the Gardai to verify accuracy of information
• Co-ordinates the tasks of the team
• Liaises with B.O.M., D.Ed. & Sc., N.E.P.S., H.S.E., E.A.S.
• Liaises with the bereaved family
In the absence of the team leader, the Vice-principal or next most senior member of staff will take on this role.
• Briefs staff meetings on facts as known
• Gives staff an opportunity to discuss/ask questions/outline routine for the day
• Ongoing updates as day progresses at break time/lunch / or as necessary
• Is alert to vulnerable staff and makes contact with them individually if necessary.
• Advises them of Employee Assistance Scheme
Community Liaison: Student contact numbers are updated at the start of each school year. Copies of student/parent contact details are issued to each class teacher at the start of the school year.
• Contact details are also loaded on Text-a-Parent.
• Emergency numbers are displayed in staff room and on office notice board and in teacher’s class contact folder.
• Liaises with agencies in the community and onward referral
• Is alert to the need to check credentials of individuals offering support
• Co-ordinates the involvement of external agencies
• Updates staff/parents / B.O.M. members on involvement of external agencies.
Parent Liaison: Appropriate sample letters will be pre-printed as part of the critical incident policy, and available in the office.
• Visits the bereaved family and the team leader
• Manages the “consent” issues in accordance with agreed school policy
• Sets up room if necessary for parents
• Meets the parents
Media Liaison: The principal in consultation with the Chairman of the Board of Management will discuss with the Chairman how best to handle media issues. An agreed statement will be prepared, to minimize media intrusion.
• Parental records are updated annually by the secretary, and maintained in the office, with each teacher receiving a copy.
• Emergency numbers are also displayed in the office, staff room and in each contact folder.
• The secretary/principal will take phone calls and note those which need a response
• Up to date templates are held in the office on the computer
• The secretary / principal will prepare and send out letters, emails, Text-a-Parent, photocopy as required
• Records will be maintained by the principal / secretary in the office.
Record Keeping: In the event of an incident each member of the staff will keep records of phone calls made and received, letters sent and received, meetings held, persons met, interventions used, materials used. Staff are advised to use the “Incident Book” in the office.
Confidentially and Good Name Considerations:
The management and staff of Ballyleague N.S. have a responsibility to protect the privacy and good name of the people involved in an incident and will be sensitive to the consequences of any public statements.
It is important to note that the term “suicide” cannot be used until after the findings of the coroner’s report have been arrived at. It is important to tell children the truth in a non sensational manner. For instance, a tragic event has occurred but we don’t know all the details yet. Or yes, sadly, -------- was involved in a serious crash but that’s all we know at the moment. It is important to put children at ease and allow them to become engaged with “normal routine” as soon as possible.
In the event that the Principal and Board of Management consider that the Critical Incident has overwhelmed the coping mechanisms of the school to the extent that professional assistance is required the National Educational Psychological Service will be contacted. Where possible verbal or written permission will be sought from parents in advance. Parents will be contacted via Text-a-Parent. If the situation warrants immediate action the school will proceed immediately and seek follow up from parent as soon as is practicable. Please refer to Responding to Critical Incidents – Guidelines for Schools (1-3 Consent)
Records will be kept of the children who have had recourse to psychologists in the wake of an incident.
The Board of Management and members of the school staff will endeavour to be sensitive to the needs of the situation at all times.
Please refer to sample letters included in this policy:
Individual or Group Support Sessions
Sudden Death / Accident
Sample Announcement to the Media
Responding to Critical Incidents – Resource Materials for Schools
Responding to Critical Incidents – Guidelines for Schools
When Tragedy Strikes – Guidelines for Effective Critical Incident Management in Schools
Infection in School – A Manual for School Personnel
Contact Lists – Parents, Staff, Emergency Services.