This Policy was revised and updated by the staff and presented to the Board of Management in September 2016. It is due for review in September 2018. Newly included in the appendix is ‘Guidelines on Social Media Use & Critical Incidents’ (2014) NEPS


This Critical Incident policy correlates with and supports other school policies in Rutland National School, particularly the Child Protection and Safety, Health & Welfare policies. These policies have been drawn up to state and emphasise that Rutland NS has the safety, care and wellbeing of the children at its core. Rutland NS aims to ensure the wellbeing of the students and staff by providing a safe and nurturing environment at all times.

Through the delivery of our SPHE (Social Personal & Health Education) curriculum, the school provides a foundation for the children’s social & emotional well-being. Circle Time and other strategies provide the children with opportunities to develop socially and emotionally. The school advocates the importance of such well-being and recognises that this can be fostered through regular SPHE lessons. We take a pre-emptive approach to fostering well-being and positive mental health, which the WHO (World Health Organisation) defines as…

‘a state of emotional and social well-being in which the individual realises      his/her own abilities, can manage the normal stresses of life, can work         effectively & is able to play a role in his/her community.’

Our Discipline for Learning programme helps foster a climate of positive behaviour; the school’s Catholic ethos advocates that positive relationships are a feature of the school on a day to day basis. Our HSCL (Home School Community Liaison) co-ordinator forges positive relationships with parents and the wider community outside the school. The school principal and SET (special education team) co-ordinator liaise with our NEPS (National Education Psychological Services) psychologist regularly, who provides advice and support where necessary.


According to NEPS, the purpose of a critical incident policy is to create effective care systems to help staff react quickly & effectively and to maintain a sense of control, ensuring normality resumes as soon as possible in the event of a critical incident. Significantly, this ensures that the effects on pupils and staff are limited.

What is a critical incident?

A critical incident is defined as an, “incident or sequence of events that overwhelms the normal coping mechanism of the school” (NEPS).

Critical incidents may involve one or more students or staff members, or members of our local community.  Types of incidents might include:

  • The death of a member of the school community through accident, violence, suicide or suspected suicide or unexpected death.
  • An intrusion into the school and/or serious damage to the building through fire, flood or vandalism.
  • Any incident of a serious nature in the locality, where violence, injury to individuals or serious damage to property occurs.
  • Serious incidents in other educational centres.
  • Disappearance of a child or adult in Ireland or abroad.
  • Asthmatic attack/serious injury to child or adult.

[See pages 34 and 35 “Responding to Critical Incidents Resource Materials for Schools”, NEPS]


The Board of Management, through the school principal, Niamh Murray, have drawn up a plan as one element of the school’s policy and plan.  The staff and management of Rutland National School have formulated a number of policies and procedures to be followed with a view to ensuring the physical and psychological safety of both pupils and staff and the creation of a supportive and caring ethos in the school in ordinary time and in the event of a critical incident.  We have established a Critical Incident Team to steer the development and implementation of the plan.

In the event of a critical incident and in line with recognised best practice, the school recognises that it is the staff, who know the children, rather than outside personnel/agencies, who are best placed to support them should the need to do so arise. In the event of the class teacher being unable to provide support, another member of staff will take their place. The school’s NEPS psychologist has offered to review this policy and has strongly recommended the advance drafting of scripts to provide a ready-made template for staff in the event of a critical incident.

Creation of a coping, supportive and caring ethos in the school-

We have put systems in place to help build resilience in both staff and students.  These include measures to address both the physical and psychological safety of the school community.

Physical Safety:

  • Health, Safety & Welfare Policy
  • Regular Fire Drills
  • Evacuation plan formulated and displayed
  • “Text-a-Parent” service to communicate urgent messages to parents
  • Access note in the case of custody issues
  • Children are always supervised
  • Permission slip when going on school outings
  • Basic maintenance of the building as far as practicable subject to DES grants
  • Code of Behaviour which includes rules for yard play

Critical Incident Rooms

In the event of a critical incident:

-Staff room will be the main room for meeting staff.

-Parent’s room will be the main room for meeting parents.

– Classrooms / G.P hall will be used for meeting with pupils.

– Secretary’s office will be used for communicating with parents / agencies

– Principal’s office will be used for individual meetings.

-Critical Incident Team will convene in Deputy Principal’s room ( room 10 )

Psychological Safety:

The management and staff aim to use all available programmes and resources to address the personal and social development of children, to enhance a sense of safety and security in the school and wider community e.g.-

  • S.P.H.E. to include Circle Time, Walk Tall, Stay Safe, Rainbows
  • Child Protection and Procedures training for staff
  • E.P.S., CAMHS, Barnardos, Drug Task Force, Gardaí, art therapist all provide specialist assistance  to the school
  • The S.E.N. team will provide support for students

In the event of a critical incident occurring, school management will endeavour to provide support to school staff from outside agencies if so required.

Critical Incident Management Team:

The aim of the Critical Incident Management Team is to support the support the staff and wider school community in the event of an incident.

In the event of an incident each member of the team will keep detailed records of phone calls made and received, meetings held, persons met, interventions made, materials used etc. Each member of the team has a Critical Incident Folder containing a copy of the policy, contact numbers and resource materials to be used in the case of an incident.

Confidentiality  & Good Name Considerations:

The school has a responsibility to protect the privacy and good name of the people involved in any incident and will be sensitive to the consequences of any public statements.  The members of the school staff will bear this in mind and will seek to ensure that pupils do so also. Members of staff will be asked to refrain from making representations on behalf of the school by communicating on social media, etc.

Alert procedures

Following staff discussion at a meeting on 14/09/16, the logistics in the event of a critical incident were discussed. In light of the incident which occurred on nearby North Cumberland St in June 2016, the issue of communication amongst staff arose and the following was decided

Should an event occur during school hours, staff have all been asked to remain calm. Edel McDonnell to alert teachers via intercom asking staff members to ‘remember to have their CI policy on their desk’

  • At this signal, SET teachers are asked to return children to base classes, SNAs to return to base class of primary child
  • The most junior SET teacher to relieve Susan Quinn (senior post-holder) who attends debrief
  • Second most junior SET teacher to relieve most senior SNA Linda Black.
  • SET teachers, HSCL, school secretary to attend gather in deputy principal’s room for short debrief with principal, deputy, senior postholder, senior SNA
  • Class teachers are asked to ensure children are not near windows and blinds are pulled if necessary. Class teachers to organise some busy work to keep children occupied in event of necessary communication between adults coming into classrooms
  • Children are not allowed to be on the internet during this time, as they may read news reports online
  • Class teachers to remain with their class (with the exception of Susan Quinn). Communication of any decision will be via staff text or SET teachers

 Timings of a possible incident…

  • Should an incident occur during canteen time, children will be asked to return to their classrooms
  • Should an incident occur during yard time, the children will be asked to return to their classrooms
  • Should an incident occur before school, the principal & deputy may decide to delay the opening*
  • Should an incident occur near the end of the day, the principal & deputy may decide to retain the children beyond 1.25pm/2.25pm*

*Parents to be informed of such decisions via Text-a-Parent. At the welcome meeting for parents on 9 September 2016, school principal, Niamh Murray flagged this possibility with the parents present & all were supportive of it.

Critical Incident Management Team: Roles

Team Leader: Niamh Murray

  • Alerts the team members to the crisis and convenes a meeting
  • Contacts NEPS psychologist
  • Contacts Chairperson BOM
  • Co-ordinates the tasks of the team
  • Liaises with the BOM; DES; NEPS; SEC
  • Liaises with affected families

Garda Liaison: Niamh Murray/ Ian Cherry

  • Liaises with the Gardai
  • Ensures that information about any incident is checked out for accuracy before being shared

Staff Liaison: Ian Cherry               

  • Leads briefing meetings for staff on facts known, gives staff members an opportunity to express their feelings and ask questions, outlines the routine for the day
  • Provides material for staff (from critical incident folder)
  • Keeps staff updated as the day progresses
  • Is alert to vulnerable staff members and makes contact with them individually
  • Advises them of the availability of the Employee Assistance Service and gives them the contact number – 1800 411 057

Student Liaison: Susan Bailey / Diane Devereux

  • Alerts other staff to vulnerable students
  • Provides materials for students (from critical incidents folder)
  • Keeps records of students seen by external agency staff
  • Looks after the setting up and supervision of quiet room where agreed

Parent Liaison: Niamh Murray / Emma Nugent

  • Sets up parents room and arranges parent meetings
  • Manage questions and answers
  • Manages consent forms – NEPS
  • Maintains a record of parents seen
  • Provides appropriate materials for parents ( from critical incident folder)

 Community Liaison: Niamh Murray / Chairperson BOM

  • Maintains up to date list of contact numbers of parents

           -emergency support services

           -other external contacts and resources

  • Liaises with agencies in the community for support and onward referral
  • Coordinates the involvement of these agencies

Media Liaison: Niamh Murray

  • In advance of an incident, will consider issues that may arise and how they might respond, e.g. students being interviewed, photographers around entrance to premises etc.
  • In the event of an incident, will liaise where necessary with relevant teacher unions, DES etc.
  • Will draw up a press statement, give media briefings and interviews (as agreed by school management)

Administrator: School secretary Edel McDonnell and Claire O’Sullivan/Deirdre Heverin

  • Maintenance of up to date telephone numbers of

           -parents or guardians


           -members of board of management

           -Emergency services

  • Takes telephone calls and notes those that need to be responded to
  • Ensures that templates are on the school system in advance and ready for adaption (Resources 1-6, Pages 4-9, Responding to Critical Incidents, Resource Materials for Schools)
  • Prepares and sends out letters, emails and faxes
  • Photocopies materials needed
  • Maintains records

Record Keeping

In the event of an incident each member of the team will keep records of phone calls made and received, meetings held, persons met, interventions used, material used etc.

Edel McDonnell will have a key role in receiving and logging phone calls, sending letters, photocopying materials, maintaining records etc

Security: David Donnelly

  • Ensures the building is secure in the event of a critical incident
  • Acts as porter in the event of a lock down
  • Communicates infrastructural information between principal of Rutland NS and principal of Holy Child Pre-school, who share the building

 Short Term Actions- Day 1

Task Name
Gather accurate information Garda Liaison – Principal
Who? What? When? Where? Garda Liaison – Principal
Convene a C.I.M.T. meeting – specify time and place clearly.  Principal / Deputy Principal
Contact external agencies- e.g. N.E.P.S. Principal/Deputy Principal
Arrange supervision of students Student Liaison
Hold Staff Meetings All Staff
Agree schedule for the day At Staff Meeting
Inform students- (close friends and students with learning difficulties may need to be told separately). Relevant Class Teacher
Compile a list of vulnerable students Principal, Student Liaison, Administrator
Contact/ Visit the bereaved family Principal/Chairperson
Prepare and agree media statement and deal with media Chairperson/Principal
Inform Parents Principal/ HSCL
Hold end of day Staff Briefing All Staff


Medium Term Actions- (Day 2 and following days)

Convene a CIMT meeting to review the events of the day Team Leader/Principal
Meet external agencies Principal (e.g. N.E.P.S.)
Meet whole staff All staff
Arrange support for students, staff, parents Principal/Deputy Principal
Visit the injured Relevant school Personnel
Liaise with bereaved family regarding funeral arrangements C.I.M.T. – Chairperson
Agree on attendance and participation at funeral service C.I.M.T.
Make decisions about school closure Board of Management


Follow –up – Beyond 72 hours

Monitor students for signs of continuing distress Class Teacher
Liaise with Agencies regarding referrals Class Teacher/Principal
Plan for return of bereaved student(s) Contact with Parent/Guardian
Plan for giving of “memory box” to bereaved family In case of student death- All staff and local community
Decide on Memorials and Anniversaries B.O.M./ Staff, Parents and students
Review response to incident and amend plan Staff/B.O.M.




(hard copy with phone numbers kept in school to maintain privacy of personnel listed)