Children think about death even when they're not directly affected by it. It's a subject that causes them concern and something they'd like to discuss in school. But teachers think the issue should only be raised when a bereavement occurs, such as after the death of Princess Diana or of someone close to a pupil.
Two Scottish primary schools took part in a study conducted by an Aberdeen teacher to analyse attitudes of teachers and children towards bringing the subject into the classroom. As well as finding a reluctance to see death as part of the life cycle, none of the student teachers, teachers and heads interviewed had received any training to deal with death. They did, however, think tht death education had a place in the primary curriculum, although exactly where was not clear to them. A minority suggested that Religious and Moral Education was the most logical area, while others felt the diversity of beliefs in contemporary society could make this difficult. Some also believed that pigeonholing death into RME could convey to pupils that it was the exclusive province of religion.
Better training for teachers on how to deal with death education, and a carefully thought-out policy, would help schools to handle this sensitive issue appropriately.
Is there a place for death education in the primary curriculum? by Lynne Bowie, Victoria Road Primary School, Victoria Road, Torry, Aberdeen, Scotland AB11 9NT