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School emergency plans and procedures

Critical incidents in schools

This guidance aims to help schools prepare for and respond to a critical incident. It outlines some of the key issues and areas for consideration which may arise.

There are resource sheets that can be tailored to your educational establishment. These templates have been made into individual sheets to give easier access to download the ones you want to use.

These documents have been produced collaboratively by West and North Northants Councils’ Educational Psychology Services and the Emergency Planning Team.

This guidance will help schools meet their duties of care in respect of pupils and staff.

A critical incident is any incident or sequence of events which overwhelms the normal coping mechanisms of the school. (NEPS, 2016)

Critical incidents are sudden, unexpected and unpredictable. They fall outside the range of normal experiences, potentially affecting a large number of people and causing high levels of personal distress. Critical incidents vary and may cause disruption to the school day.

A critical incident affecting school may include (but is not limited to):

  • the death of a member of the school community through sudden accident, murder, terminal illness or suicide
  • serious accident involving pupils or staff members on or off the school premises
  • a event witnessed outside of school (such as a serious accident or assault)
  • a significant event in the community, e.g. terrorist incident or transport accident

Due to the unpredictability and possible impact of these events, schools and other education settings should be prepared to cope with an incident. Therefore settings should develop plans and procedures so that staff can act quickly and appropriately following an incident.

This can ensure clear routes of support in the event of a critical incident and mitigate against the possible impact.

It is strongly recommended that schools produce a plan which represents best practice in managing and coordinating an emergency response. This may include information about key roles and responsibilities, lines of communication and contact details, essential tasks, procedures for information gathering, sharing and management and sources of further guidance and support.

Consideration will need to be given to how the plan is shared, tested and reviewed. The process or preparing for a critical incident may highlight areas for further training.

In the event of an emergency we may need to urgently contact someone from your school. We aim to contact your school on an annual basis to verify the contact details we hold.

We will ask you to provide out of hours contact details to ensure the appropriate person can be contacted without delay in the event of an emergency incident of potential incident.

All information provided will be maintained securely and used with total discretion, only by authorised staff.

Any changes to contact details (including temporary changes due to holiday, sickness or long term absence) should be emailed to [email protected]

Last updated 16 September 2022