Winton was twelve when he died on 26 February 2001,
of sudden acute peritonitis due to a very rare congenital
bowel disorder. He was in his first year in our school,
Currie Community High School in Edinburgh, having previously
attended Riccarton Primary School. Ronnie's mother,
Marion Winton, has been very much a partner in the production
of this Case Study. She greatly appreciates the efforts
that both the schools attended by Ronnie made to comfort
the family and to ensure that Ronnie is not forgotten.
As a teacher herself, she recognises that schools also
have to 'get on with their business' after such tragedies.
She has participated in the hope that this Case Study
will help other schools to be supportive to all involved
in such a tragedy, to remember appropriately pupils
from their communities who have died, and to enable
all to move on in their lives when they are ready to
do so. We at Currie Community High School and the Scottish
Schools Ethos Network Team are deeply grateful to Marion
for this generosity, as we are to Wendy Haywood, Head
Teacher at Riccarton Primary School attended by Ronnie
and his younger brother, Michael, for her contributions.
Community High School and its ethos
For 350 years there has been a school at Currie educating
the children of the local community. The present 1960s
building, the sixth, was completely refurbished between
1995 and 1998. As well as an attractive new entrance
and reception area, the school has an excellent Learning
Resource Centre, a Drama Studio and improved facilities
for sport and recreation, including a Lottery-funded
astro-turf pitch. The provision of ramps, lifts, shower
and toilet facilities has facilitated disabled access.
As a designated Community High School, operating in
partnership with a neighbouring High School, an extensive
programme is run for the benefit of the local community.
itself has grown from a farming and weaving village
to being an attractive residential suburb to the south-west
of the centre of Edinburgh. There are some 950 pupils
currently at the school. The school is allowed to admit
up to 180 pupils in each year and there is a small waiting
list. Significantly 25 per cent of the pupils attend
as a result of parental placement requests. The majority
of these pupils are coming from areas of disadvantage.
As a result there is a very good social and academic
'mix' at the school. The development of positive home-school
links is prioritised.
inspected the school in 1998 and reported that the school's
ethos was 'excellent'. A perceived strength is the 'vertical'
Guidance system of three Houses supported by a team
of Group Tutors. This means that virtually every member
of the teaching staff, other than the Senior Management
Team (SMT) and the Guidance team, has a pastoral responsibility
for about 20 pupils. Our Group Tutors begin their work
when the pupils are still in Primary 7 of our associated
primary schools and take their Tutor Group all the way
through school. Group Tutors are first points of contact
for any concerns, support the pupils at key stages in
their progress and get to know them really well as individuals.
of Ronnie's death
Ronnie had settled well in our secondary school, was
finding his feet in first year and making good progress.
News of Ronnie's death came to us in a phone call from
a neighbour. This shocking news was confirmed by a member
of the school's administrative staff who is a near neighbour
of the family.
previous experience of the deaths of other pupils, we
recognised the need to ensure that staff, pupils and
parents were informed promptly rather than hearing in
an unplanned way that would inevitably cause distress.
As the news had arrived in the late afternoon there
was time for our SMT at Currie High School to draw breath
and agree the best way forward. We also had time to
attend to distressing but necessary administrative tasks
such as withdrawing Ronnie's entry on the school and
Authority records to pre-empt any automatic mailing
that might have distressed the family. Many Authorities
will have procedural guidelines and advice for schools
in place, such as those very recently issued by our
Authority, the City of Edinburgh.
gave a confidential memo to all staff as they arrived
the next morning, appraising them of the situation and
alerting them to pupils being upset. We felt it was
important that feelings be allowed individual expression
but that a distressing 'mass response' should not be
allowed to develop. In difficult situations, children
and young people derive comfort and support from the
familiar, be it classmates, staff or, indeed, the routine
time-tabled day. However, something deeply traumatic
had occurred and we all, staff and pupil members of
the school community, needed to acknowledge our grief
and that of others and to offer appropriate support.
a school we are fortunate in having not just our experienced
Guidance team, all of whom had helped youngsters deal
with previous losses, but also key 'friends of the school'
who had also already supported us through bereavement
- our School Chaplain, Educational Psychologist, School
Nurse and a member of school staff who is a trained
staff members were advised of the availability of this
support team and the Guidance staff were taken off their
time-tabled teaching to be available if a pupil came
to school upset or showed distress in class during the
course of the next few school days. The letter sent
home later to parents (view to the right), as well as
informing them of the sad news, alerted them to how
upsetting Ronnie's death might be for some pupils and
advised them of the continuing additional support available
at the school.
for the pupils in Ronnie's year and particularly for
his close friends and his Tutor Group, the news was
very distressing. Ronnie's Assistant Head Teacher accompanied
the Group Tutor to registration and officially informed
the class. The Assistant Head was able to give a factual
account of what had occurred and also to let them know
that help was available for them.
first day went as well as we could have expected in
the circumstances. The Head Teacher was actually the
teacher for Ronnie's History class, attended also by
Ronnie's closest friend from his primary school. He
and other teaching staff gave the opportunity for questions
to be asked by pupils, reminded them of the help that
was available and then got on with the planned lessons.
As the day went on there was a steady trickle of pupils
seeking comfort. Often the chance to sit quietly away
from class was all that was needed. Senior pupils were
on hand during intervals and lunchtime to look for youngsters
who were obviously upset and to take them to one of
the staff assigned to help. The vast majority of pupils
coped remarkably well, drawing comfort from their friends.
Only a tiny handful was so distressed that they needed
to go home.
Winton, 20.9.88 - 26.2.01
PARENTS OF PUPILS IN 1B
will have learnt by now of the tragic
death of Ronnie Winton, a pupil in 1H3.
Ronnie died at home on Monday after a
this has come as a great shock to the
school and particularly to his closest
classmates. The youngsters have been spoken
to by key members of staff. For those
who are finding it harder to cope with
Ronnie's death there is additional help
available from the Guidance staff, Mrs
Ingham (a trained counsellor) and our
School Chaplain, Dave Anderson.
as parents you will be more conscious
of how your child is managing to deal
with such an upsetting experience. Please
do not hesitate to contact the school
if you feel that additional support from
us would help.
funeral has been arranged for Saturday
3 March at 10.00am at Currie Kirk. We
will be holding our own commemorative
service next Wednesday morning.
this sad time for the school community
our thoughts are very much with the Winton
Head Teacher's letter home to all parents
of the pupils in Ronnie's class.
important that the family or someone who
represents them can give accurate information
to the school otherwise rumours can spread
and even be circulated by the press.
of the death of a pupil at school is so
difficult - to believe the news is hard,
when your memory is of such a happy healthy
youngster. And then, to plan what to do
for the best
It was particularly difficult
for us as, just the year before, virtually
to the day, a pupil had died after a long
illness. Ronnie had been happy here and
was ready for the challenges of secondary
Teacher of Riccarton PS
thought about the other children and wondered
how they would be, especially Ronnie's best
friend from his primary school. I hoped
they would be looked after and I thought
they would be. Although I was so confused
at this time, perhaps later it might have
been nice to know what was done to help
them. It matters, somehow, that everything
'right' is done even if you aren't fully
aware of it at the time.