Our Stories - St Mark's Primary School, Barrhead

What do you tell an 11-year-old boy who lost his sister a few years ago and has now lost his brother?
Or a boy and a girl whose dad was knocked down and killed at Christmas?
That things will get better? That they’ll soon forget all about it?

These are the growing dilemmas facing teachers at St Mark’s Primary School in Barrhead, East Renfrewshire.

The school is not unique in facing parental or sibling bereavement but a number of tragic events in the last year has exposed the need for greater emotional support for the kids.

“One wee boy lost his dad,” explained school head, Gerard McLaughlin. “They used to do everything together, fix things.

“He couldn’t understand why his dad was dead. He asked a relative ‘Can’t we just put a new battery in him?’

“He thought that way because his dad was always able to fix things that had broken down.”

Mr McLaughlin is well aware of the benefits of emotional support for primary school children. As head of St Clare’s School in Drumchapel in 2008, he successfully applied for a £1000 Teddy Bear grant to pay for new teacher breavement training.

Now, transferred to St Marks, he quickly made a similar successful request so that four of his teachers can undergo “Seasons for Growth” instruction.

Matching the seasons of the year, the programme tells kids that Autumn is a time for remembering the good times; Winter is the cold and harsh reality of loss; Spring is all about looking forward and; summer is an expression of joy and time to move on.

Added Mr McLaughlin:”Seven pupils out of a school roll of 250 were affected by a close relative’s death at the end of 2008 – that we know of.

“That may just be the tip of the iceberg. I’m afraid today, many children also suffer through their parents splitting up.

“When I arrived here, I wanted to know what mechanisms were in place to support the children.

“There is a specialist bereavement service at Yorkhill Hospital on the other side of the city.

“But having trained teachers ‘in house’ where the children feel safe is far more valuable.”

Pupils of St Mark's Primary at playtime.

Pupils of St Mark's Primary at playtime.

Pupils of St Mark's Primary at playtime.

Pupils of St Mark's Primary at playtime.

Pupils of St Mark's Primary at playtime.

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