Oxford Brookes University develops OxTrail ‘grief and loss’ resource packs for children

An Oxtrail Ox outside the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford
An Oxtrail Ox outside the Radcliffe Camera in Oxford. Photo credit: Sobell House

Oxford Brookes University has teamed up with Sobell House Hospice to develop resources for school children to support difficult conversations around grief and loss.

As part of this Summer’s OxTrail – which kicks off on 6 July 2024 – Oxford Brookes University has crafted educational and creative materials to support classroom discussion around bereavement. 

OxTrail is Oxford’s first ever art sculpture trail, in aid of Sobell House Hospice, and will see over a hundred individually decorated fibre-glass oxen placed across Oxford city and parts of Oxfordshire for eight weeks. Oxford Brookes University is the official OxTrail Learning Programme partner. 

Children play a key role in the trail. Around 85 schools and community groups are taking part by decorating mini oxen, which will be displayed in mini herds in libraries, hotels and community spaces. 

Resources for children and schools
There is a Mini-herd Learning Pack created by staff at Oxford Brookes to help Oxfordshire schools and community groups engage with OxTrail this summer. 

There is also a set of resources  focusing on bereavement and designed for longer term use. This has been created by Hamilton Brookes, a publishing company at Oxford Brookes University which produces lesson plans and other resources for primary schools.

Michelle Montgomery, Associate Dean for Strategy and Development at Oxford Brookes said: “The Mini-herd packs, which include poems, art and activities have been designed to help schools and community groups, including Scouts and Guides, engage with the trail, and inspire children who are now painting their mini-oxen.”

The Learning Resource Packs designed for longer-term use are available for all school teachers to download. They are designed to help build children’s emotional literacy and empathy. Aimed at six to 15-year-olds, the packs provide a framework for teachers which is flexible and easy to use. To date more than 37,580 children have benefitted from the resources.  

Claire Field, from Hamilton Brookes, said: “We wanted to provide support for teachers who have had a loss within a school community and want to help children build resilience. Sometimes teachers and headteachers are nervous about these subjects and obviously have to be very sensitive to their pupils’ situations.

“The packs are all based on story books with two book suggestions for each age range. This gives the teachers something to read and discuss with their class along with creative ideas for conversations and activities. 

“We’ve also provided template letters for schools to send home so that parents and carers know these conversations are going to happen and that children might come home and talk about the themes further. These include websites where people can find out more about these subjects if they want to.

“Teachers are far more aware of the need to make space for difficult conversations, to talk with their pupils and give them the language to discuss things which come up as well.”

Beth Marsh, Head of Fundraising at Sobell House Hospice said: “At the heart of the OxTrail art trail is fundraising for the hospice, a place that makes people feel safe and cared for in the final moments of their life. The learning pack echoes the creativity of the trail while providing much needed guidance to teachers who are tackling discussions around bereavement every day.

“It is a resource to help better equip children and give them the tools they need to process and understand grief and loss. The learning pack has been a fantastic contribution to the OxTrail event and will continue to be a vital resource long after the trail has ended.” 

The OxTrail learning packs are available for free download on the Hamilton Brookes website.