Child Bereavement Network estimates 127 children are bereaved of a parent every day. Compassion Arts, in partnership with St Luke’s Hospice, aims to change the nature in schools around death and dying by 1) training young people to understand bereavement, dying, and anticipatory grief and 2) talking about death and bereavement in an open and honest forum through the method of forum theatre workshops. Between 2018-19 and 2021-22, Compassion Arts trained approximately 450 students in the Southwest through the Compassionate Buddies pilot program. The aim of this program was to create compassionate peer structures around bereaved students in an educational setting. Initial feedback states that the forum theatre training provided to secondary school students has increased students’ awareness about bereavement by 86% with a further 65% saying they now feel confident talking to a bereaved peer (Cahill 2023). Approximately 90% of the teachers from these schools indicated the need for this education to be included in public policy (Cahill 2023) – an area we hope to address in the project’s next phase. This conference paper aims to disseminate the initial findings of that pilot project and analyse the efficacy of using forum theatre as a tool for creating a Compassionate School.
Alex Cahill, University of Plymouth, United Kingdom