School unites in grief after teacher dies in road accident

14th August 2009 at 01:00
Tributes pour in within hours of tragedy

The death of a popular young teacher led to an outpouring of grief from her shocked pupils last week.

Fflur Bedwyr, a religious studies teacher and head of Year 9 at Ysgol Gyfun Bro Morgannwg in Barry, died after she was hit by a bus in Cardiff city centre.

Within hours of the incident hundreds of current and former pupils had left loving tributes to the 34-year-old on a memorial page on the social networking site Facebook.

The following day, dozens gathered outside the Welsh-medium secondary for an impromptu memorial service, leaving more than 50 floral tributes and two signed school polo shirts at the gates.

But how does a school community come to terms with the sudden and unexpected loss of a much-loved member of staff?

Valerie Taylor, a trained counsellor and former teacher who now works for Carmarthenshire Youth and Children's Association, said it was important for pupils to be heavily involved.

"It is something that needs to be dealt with as normally as possible and not swept under the carpet," she said. "It is important to answer any questions that the children ask as openly as you can. For example, you could discuss if there is life after death in class or in PSE lessons.

"It is also a chance to go through the grieving process together - for many it may be the first death they have experienced."

Ms Taylor also said pupils should be given the opportunity to attend a memorial service.

Dr Dylan Jones, headteacher of Bro Morgannwg, said this was the first time his school had needed to deal with such a tragedy.

"It's a new experience to all of us," he told TES Cymru.

"I'm really proud of the way the pupils got together after the incident," Dr Jones said. "We were able to share our feelings and come together as a unit. There was a distinct feeling of family, of the school pulling together.

"Fflur would have been shocked to see the amount of people who turned up. It meant an awful lot to her mother and sister, who were also there."

Dr Jones said the school's own pupil support team would be the first port of call for anyone who needed help to cope with their grief, with members of staff available to offer support during the upcoming GCSE and A-level results days.

The local authority, the Vale of Glamorgan, has also made external support available in case the school needs to refer individual pupils.

A commemorative assembly and various gatherings will be arranged during the first week of the new term to help bring the 840-pupil school together.

"That's the tenor of what we should be doing over the next couple of weeks - allowing pupils to talk and express their own feelings," Dr Jones said.

In the longer term, Dr Jones said a permanent tribute to Ms Bedwyr was being planned.

"There will probably be a memorial at the school," he said.

"We will talk to Fflur's mother about how the family would wish to proceed, but I think a permanent memorial would be a good idea.

"It's something I think the pupils would want because she made such a huge contribution to the school. She really was a fantastic teacher."

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