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Church issues resources for schools in the wake of the Queen’s death

16 September 2022

Bishop pens letter to children: ‘It’s okay to feel sad and cry when someone dies

Alamy

Children look at floral tributes to the Queen outside Buckingham Palace, on Sunday

Children look at floral tributes to the Queen outside Buckingham Palace, on Sunday

SCHOOLS and children’s organisations responded with swiftness to the royal events, with resources available for immediate collective worship on the Friday following the Queen’s death last week, and explanations of the days of national mourning.

Material from the Church of England for both primary and secondary schools encouraged children to remember different aspects of the Queen’s long life, to “pause and reflect on what a life well lived means for each one of us today”, and to think about faith, servanthood, and leadership.

Resources on the funeral itself explained the lying in state, the expected funeral procession through the streets of London, and the funeral in Westminster Abbey (which has also provided resources). Children have been encouraged to engage with the events, recalling instances when they might have seen the Queen, listened to her speak, or seen her image in everyday life.

Reflecting on those with particular reason to mourn, it was suggested that they “think about the Queen’s family, people who worked for her, people who met her, people in the UK and around the world. Don’t forget to include the Queen’s pets and take a moment to think how it might affect them.”

The head teacher of Bramcote C of E Primary School, Nottinghamshire, Sarah Meredith, was one of many who were thankful for the speed at which the C of E made material available. “We thought it appropriate that we all gathered together for collective worship on Friday morning,” she said. “We spoke to the children about their memories — it helped enormously that we’d done a great deal on the Jubilee.”

Mrs Meredith said that it had been hard to speak at that first assembly, with the news so raw. “I was really touched,” she said. “We have had prayers all week for the Royal Family, and talked about it in circle time. We’ve talked about the lying in state, the various locations of Balmoral, Edinburgh, and Buckingham Palace, flags and proclamations, and the children have followed the events on Newsround, which is very much pitched at their level.”

The school is conscious of giving space to children who have recently lost a family member, particularly a grandparent, for whom the sight of the coffin may have resonance.

Derby Cathedral School, a C of E secondary school, put out collective worship information for all tutors to share with students on the Friday morning. “The news had just broken, and we were really conscious that there would be a whole range of responses — from families and students who would know a lot about it, and those who might not know much at all,” the head teacher, Jenny Brown, said.

“We gave them information, but, very mindful that lots of talk about death and mourning can evoke bereavements they might have had, we put a prayer on there so that everyone was saying a prayer for the Queen, for the Royal Family, for all those bereaved, and for the new King.”

Each year-group is having an assembly this week: a reflection on the life of the Queen. “It’s a balance between information and reflection on all aspects of her life and her faith,” she said. “The fact that she trained as a mechanic, for instance, is something teenagers might not know about her.

“We have talked about her faith, but also that she was very respectful of others’ faith — all tied in with our core faith values, which we talk about a lot. What I’ve picked up from talking to students around school is that they’re really interested in it, and really affected by it. Many are going to watch the funeral. They can see the impact it has had across the world, and want to be part of that collective experience.”

The Queen was the long-term patron of Save the Children from 1952 to 2017. The organisation is urging people, wherever they stand on republic or monarchy, to talk to children about what has happened, describing the Queen’s death as “a seismic tragedy that has shaken the national fabric”.

They give seven tips to help the conversation, including, “Don’t use ambiguous language like ‘passing away’, ‘gone to sleep’, or ‘up with the angels’. Use a literal ‘death’, ‘dead’, or ‘dying’.” Using clear and simple language will reassure children and help them process their feelings, the charity says.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Revd Graham Usher, has written and recorded a simple reflection for children. He is a beekeeper, and tells them, “One bee is different from all the other bees in the beehive and she is called the Queen Bee. All the other bees look to her to help them know what to do. For 70 years we have had someone in our country who we have looked to for help. She was called Queen Elizabeth II.”

He speaks of the Queen’s love of Balmoral and of being at a home at Sandringham. “I always took the Queen a jar of my bees’ honey,” he tells them. “She served the honey for tea. Last weekend, I went to tell my bees that the Queen had died. A lot of beekeepers tell their bees important news. The bees were very quiet when I told them. I felt sad because I can’t take Queen Elizabeth any more of their honey. I imagine you might have also felt sad in the last few days. It’s okay to feel sad and cry when someone dies.

“I’ve also been asking God to look after King Charles and his family. That is why we sing God Save the King. Thank you for reading this and I hope you will remember happy things about Queen Elizabeth. Now we look forward to the happy things that King Charles will do.”

The Scouts describe the Queen as “a lifelong champion of young people and youth development.” The movement has launched a resources page, telling members, “We know many of you will want to mark this moment. We’d like to help you to do that in a way that is respectful and meaningful as possible.”

An official memorial badge is being made available, and the Scouts have been told, “In our Scout Promise, the reference to HM the Queen represented continuity, service to our nation and a commitment to helping others. It also acknowledged the Scout Movement’s close ties with the monarchy for over 100 years.

“In keeping with this proud tradition, Scouts Board of Trustees have approved that the reference to the Queen in our Promise, now changes to the King. You should now use this Promise in all situations where the Promise is used.”

To honour her legacy, the movement is calling for young people and volunteers to take part in an act of kindness. “It could be something as simple as making a cake for a neighbour or helping plant a community garden. Whatever you do, no matter how big or small, we’d like to hear from you. It would be great if, as a movement, we can inspire a huge number of acts of kindness for HM the Queen by September 2023.”

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