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Why is my child refusing to go to school?

These anxieties can stem from a number of things such as:

  • Mental health issues such as anxiety - in particular separation anxiety.
  • Trauma
  • Low self-esteem
  • Bullying
  • The environment itself
  • Autism spectrum disorders (ASD)

School refusal can happen at any stage, however mostly occurs when children start school or transition into secondary school.

What can I do to help?

There are plenty of options available to help you if you think your child might be experiencing school refusal.

Speak to your school

  • Talk to a teacher or the mental health lead at school and work with them around the issue. It's important to maintain a good relationship with them during this time. They can help agree on things the school can do such as arranging flexible start times to avoid the morning rush.
  • If you have concerns about bullying, speak to the school about their anti-bullying policy.
  • Speak to your school and ask them to assess your child if you think there may be an unidentified SEND need causing the anxiety.
  • You'll need to work with the school to help your child - particularly with any support plans they put in place.

Find help online

  • Healthy Young Minds in Herts have advice on what to do if you're worried as well as tips for talking to children and young people about their anxiety and mental health.
  • The NHS list a number of mental health apps which you can try with your child at home. These can help them learn to cope with their anxiety in a more positive way.
  • MindEd provides free educational resources for parents and carers who might be worried about the mental health of their child.
  • Young Minds have a dedicated section for parents which includes a parent helpline as well as expert tips and advice.
  • Family lives offer parenting and family support with a helpline and online forum.
  • No Panic offers information and advice on childrens anxieties, school phobia and treatment for overcoming school phobia.
  • KOOTH offers free, safe and anonymous online mental health support and counselling for young people.
  • Just Talk Herts is a campaign run by multiple agencies in Hertfordshire that is encouraging young people to talk about their mental health. They have lots of useful resources for young people and schools too.

Who can support me?

You should start by speaking to your GP. They might be able to refer you to services such as CAMHS or PALMS.

Mental health services

CAMHS (Child and adolescent mental health services) works with children and young people who have difficulties with their emotional wellbeing or mental health difficulties.

PALMS (Positive behaviour, Autism, Learning Disability and Mental health Service) helps children and young people aged 0-19 who have a learning disability and/or Autistic Spectrum Disorder.

Education Welfare Officers

Education Welfare Officers (EWO) meet with both parents and pupils in order to try and reduce unnecessary absence and remind parents of their legal responsibilities.

It's natural to be concerned if your case gets referred to an EWO, however they can work in partnership with you and the school. They can make suggestions like having you stay with your child until they've settled in class.

Attendance team

Schools will usually make a referral to the attendance team if attendance is below 90% and the majority of absences are unauthorised. However you can contact them for support too.

ESMA

The Education Support for Medical Absence (ESMA) team support pupils who have had, or are expecting to have, significant time off school due to a physical or mental health condition. Their aim is to help children continue their education around their needs and work towards getting them back into school life.

Educational psychologists

Educational Psychologists provide support to schools to help them meet the needs of children and young people. This can be through both school wide advice or concerns about an individual. Although they work directly with schools and settings, they also have a Contactline specifically for parents.

Independent organisations who can help

Provide impartial and confidential information, advice and support to parents and carers of children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)

NFIS aims to support children and their families struggling with school attendance, and raise awareness of their experiences.

Hertfordshire based support and advice for parents, carers and kids from the NHS

Hertfordshire based support and advice for teens from the NHS

0300 123 4043 - Hertfordshire County Council customer call centre

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