A guide to help schools prepare and respond to a critical incident

What is a critical incident?

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.

Preparing for a critical incident

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.

Please see our: Guide and resources for education professionals coping with a critical incident (PDF) for information on how to prepare and plan for a critical incident and how to access support from our Educational Psychology Service.


Files available to download