Creating art is a recognised way of helping children open up about their feelings in a way that can be very beneficial to their well-being, especially if they’re experiencing loss.

That’s why, as part of the important role we’re playing in developing a more compassionate city, St Luke’s is working with local schools, using our forthcoming Elmer sculpture trail to kickstart conversations with children and their teachers about bereavement and what it means so that no child feels left behind. Central to this is the schools resource pack created by our Education team, full of lesson plans and ideas for supporting bereaved children.

Recently, our very own Patron, celebrated local artist Brian Pollard, paid a visit to Boringdon Primary School in Plymouth, accompanied by his hand-painted Elmer, one of the highlights of this summer’s trail. In his trademark uplifting style, Brian spent time talking with the children as part of their school assembly around death and dying.

Research from the Childhood Bereavement Network states one child in 29, often one in every class, will have experienced some form of bereavement. Perhaps more heartbreakingly, one child in 20 will have lost a parent, a somewhat shocking statistic that underlines the need for sensitive, age-appropriate support for these young ones.

Speaking about his time at the school, Brian said: “It was amazing to see their faces when we unveiled the Elmer sculpture. They were all transfixed and really concentrating on what we were talking about. I think young children have a better idea of death than we think they do, so starting a trail of understanding from an early age is really important.”

Karen Whittington, Early Years Co-ordinator at Boringdon Primary School, added: “I think people will be shocked to find out there are a lot of children going through bereavement at the moment. We want to make sure that young children are able to talk about end of life care. It’s really important that those children are supported and able to access the facilities at St Luke’s.”

St Luke’s will be working with a total of 25 schools as part of Elmer’s Big Parade education programme kindly supported by the Thomas Cook Children’s Charity. The programme will offer support from our charity on how to deliver age appropriate lessons around bereavement, and each school will contribute their very own hand-painted mini Elmer to form part of a dedicated trail around Mount Edgcumbe during the summer.

Gail Wilson, Deputy Director of Clinical Services at St Luke’s, said: “We’re using creative art as a way to approach difficult conversations and are very proud of this child-friendly way to support schools, both staff and pupils, in new and original ways. Elmer’s Big Parade is a great gateway for schools across our community to access further support from St Luke’s and our new Compassionate Schools programme.”

Learn more about our support for schools.