Put death on the national curriculum

18 March 2011
Dying Matters, together with the National Council for Palliative Care, believes all secondary school pupils in England should be taught about issues relating to death and dying as part of the national curriculum.

The charities made the call on Wednesday 16 March at an event in the Houses of Parliament attended by MPs, peers, students and teachers.

Although someone in the UK dies every minute, many schools remain unsure how best to support pupils who have been affected by someone close to them facing death or dying.

Students Michael Ha, Shedeh Javadzadeh and Buket Gundogan from Mossbourne Academy in London’s East End launched the lesson plan in the Boothroyd Room at the Houses of Parliament.

All three of the 17-year-old have won university places to study medicine. They approached the National Council for Palliative Care and the Dying Matters Coalition to ask if they could work with them to produce a lesson plan.

Shedeh Javadzadeh said: “After taking part in a project led by the National Council for Palliative Care where we were matched up with hospice day patients, we realised this was a really important subject for people our age, and one we don’t often discuss.

"By designing a lesson plan I really hope that we will be helping schools to break the taboo around discussing death and dying so that more people can receive the type of care and support that they want and need.”

Hannah Denham, Head of Art at Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College in Lewisham, which has piloted the lesson plan, remarked: “Around 22,000 young people each year will lose a parent or sibling whilst in education, with many more affected by the serious illness or death of extended family or friends. It is unlikely any teacher will escape having to deal with this subject in their career but it’s sometimes difficult to approach. The new lesson plan really helps in broaching the subject and in getting students to talk openly not just about their own experiences but how they can support their friends.”

Eve Richardson, Chief Executive of the National Council for Palliative Care, said: “Because so many people remain uncomfortable in discussing dying openly, many people feel afraid and unsupported if they do become seriously ill or if someone close to them is dying. In order to break down this taboo it is vital that people of all ages feel supported to discuss their feelings around death and dying openly. That is why we are calling for learning about death and dying to be a key part of the wellbeing curriculum in all secondary schools in England.”

School Lesson Plan: information and resources for students and teachers.

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