Developing a critical incidents policy

Having a critical incidents policy in place allows educational communities to plan for their response to potentially traumatic events.

These resources are an outline of what to include in a critical incidents policy, drawing on the evidence of what helps create the best environment for recovery. They are designed to be adapted to the needs of your own setting.

UKTC Critical Incidents policy framework for all educational communities

(Including early years settings, schools, alternative provision and FE colleges).

Define what you mean by a critical incident and how you will use this policy. You might wish to use our description “We consider that a critical incident is an event that is potentially traumatic, and affects a large part, or the whole of our early years setting, rather than just one or two individuals.”

Set out the five guiding principles* explaining that these will be used to underpin your response to helping everyone feel:

  • Safe
  • Calm
  • Connected to, and supported by, others
  • In control
  • Hopeful

* See UKTC Critical Incidents guidance supplement 1 for summary of the five principles research

Set out the purpose and benefits of this policy. These might include:

  • setting out how to support staff, children and young people following a critical incident
  • seeking to best enable their psychological recovery
  • enabling your school/college/setting to function effectively
  • helping identify children and young people who might be more at risk to the potential impact of the trauma of the event
  • drawing on the best available evidence, underpinned by the guiding principles as set out in the UKTC Critical Incidents Guidance

List (and provide links to) other relevant policies e.g., Pastoral Care, Anti racism, Safeguarding, Internet/Mobile Use, Health & Safety, Media and SEND Policies.

List key staff and the roles they will adopt as part of the Critical Incidents Management Team (CIMT). You might include the role of governors, local authority support and other organisations.

You may want to include a note on needing to adapt these roles depending on the nature of the event and who is involved as well as needing to be flexible to change over time.

You may also want to name someone to take on the role of looking after those on the CIMT- this might be someone internal or someone from an external organisation.

List what you will do in the event of a critical incident in your community (using the five guiding principles) to help your children and young people feel

  • Safe
  • Calm
  • Connected
  • In control
  • Hopeful


Outline the preparation undertaken in developing and preparing for a critical incident. Include whole staff training, drafting and disseminating the policy, as well as the time frame for review.

Immediate response – the first days

Outline the steps you will take in the immediate aftermath of a critical incident to help your educational community feel safe, calm, connected, in control and hopeful.

This will include your initial responses to the staff, children, young people and parents/carers, any immediate changes needed and your process for identifying particular at risk or vulnerable individuals or groups.

Medium term response – the first weeks

Outline the steps you will take in your medium-term response to a critical incident to help your community feel safe, calm, connected, in control and hopeful.

This will include how you will continue to support staff, children and young people to embed the principles in your educational community and develop ongoing support for those most affected by the event.

Describe any monitoring you will do to enable you to identify staff, children and young people who remain vulnerable to the impact of the event and may need referring on for additional support.

Ongoing response –  months and years

Outline how in your ongoing response to a critical incident you will support your educational community to feel safe, calm, connected, in control and hopeful.

This will include your plans for the longer term including seeking feedback and identifying lessons learned about the way your community managed the event.

You may also consider your continued support for any children or young people who are struggling. Monitoring may have identified those who need a referral for additional support.

Recognise the importance of marking anniversaries, remembering those impacted by the critical incident and the possibility of legacy planning.

Outline your procedure for signing off your policy, disseminating and reviewing it including who is responsible and the timeframe for this.

When seeking additional support consider drawing on people who will empower you to embed the guiding principles. This might include your Mental Health Support Team, counselling service, LEA critical incidents team, Educational Psychology Service, LEA media spokesperson etc.

Include contact details for organisations that might be able to help the whole community as well as those to whom you can refer on any children or young people who need specialist support.

Consider other organisations who hold specific expertise e.g., following a suicide.

Identify resources to list here. These might include:

UKTC Critical Incidents resources

  • UKTC Critical Incidents guidance
  • UKTC Critical Incidents INSET session
  • UKTC Critical Incidents lesson plans to help children regulate emotions (ages 3-6 years, 7-11 years and 12+ years)
  • UKTC Critical Incidents working together with parents and carers resources
  • UKTC Traumatic bereavement resources including an animation and a Schools and colleges guide to traumatic bereavement. These resources help those working with children and young people recognise when trauma might be impacting the ability to grieve. Includes information sheets for young people and for parents/carers.

For other resources and information see UKTC Critical Incidents guidance supplement 6.

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