IT was back to school today for pupils at Sytchampton First School, just days after the death of their heateacher in an apparent suicide.
Helen Mann, aged 43, is understood to have hanged herself in her office on Monday. A spokesman for Worcestershire County Council said it had reopened the school as soon as possible, in order to retain a sense of normality for the children. Last night parents were invited to a meeting with educational psychologists, county council representatives and governors to ask questions and access information about how to talk to bereaved children.
Some of the advice theyreceived on talking about suicide included:
Children aged five to nine are unlikely to need lots of detail about a death.
Follow the child’s lead by responding to the questions they may have.
Answer questions honestly but simply.
Introducing the subject of suicide is unlikely to be helpful to the child and is best avoided unless absolutely necessary.
If a parent chooses to explain suicide, a simple, factual but sensitive approach is suggested.
Children are unlikely to need any further details about methods of suicide.
If children mention specific methods of suicide, parents may choose to acknowledge it can happen but it is dangerous to try to do it.
The educational psychologists have been offering support to pupils, parents and staff, as well as teaching the school’s leadership team coping mechanisms to help the pupils with the incident. The psychologists were at the school this morning offering one-toone or group sessions for those who needed support.
A local headteacher, who has asked not been named, is also supporting the school’s leadership team.
Speaking on Tuesday, John Edwards, the county council’s head of learning and achievement, said: “Together with the governing body we aim to get the school back open as soon as possible so that support can be provided to those that need it while offering a structure of normality.”
The school, in the tiny hamlet on the A449 between Worcester and Stourporton- Severn, caters for children aged between five and nine and achieved two outstanding Ofsted reports following inspections in 2006 and 2009. Mrs Mann took up her post from the start of the summer term.
She was previously deputy headteacher at Millfields First School, Bromsgrove, where she worked for nearly four years until leaving last year.
A county council spokesman said Millfields had not made a request for counselling or additional support for pupils and staff.
Mrs Mann leaves two young sons, aged 10 and 13, and her husband Philip, 48.
Villagers, councillors and school governors have all paid tribute to her and expressed their shock and sadness at her death.
Yesterday the National Association of Head Teachers also said its thoughts were with Mrs Mann’s family, colleagues and pupils.
Russell Hobby, general secretary of the union, said: “School leaders perform a demanding and vital role in the communities they serve. As a result, when a tragedy like this takes place, we know that the loss will be felt keenly.”
TRIBUTES TO HELEN MANN
READERS of your Worcester News have been paying tribute to Helen Mann.
They have been taking to our Facebook page and website to pass on their sympathies to those affected by the death of Mrs Mann at Sytchampton Endowed First School, near Worcester, on Monday.
The 43-year-old is understood to have hanged herself in her office shortly after 4.20pm.
Eileen Swift said: “It makes me feel so sad to think she was so unhappy that she had to take her own life. God bless you, Helen.”
Rae Hodgetts wrote it was “so very sad.” She said: “Thoughts and prayers are with this lady’s family, friends and the whole school community.”
Lynda Llewellyn said she felt for Mrs Mann’s family, in particular her two young sons.
“I feel sorry for the family she has left behind, especially the children. RIP Helen.”
Anna Megdiche Branton said the news was “tragic”, adding her two children went to the “lovely school.”
While Kitty Butler Blucher simply described it as “gut wrenching”.
One website user, MakeUthink, said: “RIP Mrs Mann. Such a tragedy.
It’s so sad that she (apparently) became so desperate, and didn’t feel able to share her worries with someone to avoid such a waste of her precious life.”
Lisa Richards said: “Such a tragic end to such a young life – thoughts go out to her family and the pupils and staff at the school.”
Steven Taylor summed up his feelings with: “Very sad, thoughts are with the family.”