School Refuser - The Blog

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Anxiety in children increasing

Recent research is showing that more children are suffering from anxiety. One wonders why this might be?

Some theorists down here are claiming it is the parents fault, and in particular mothers for not letting their kids be indepndent enough. They blame over-organised lives with too many activities and not enough down time.

This kind of argument will of course go round in circles as it is too easy to blame and lay it at the mother's feet. Really annoys me.
Personally I think those who have school refusal are not in the same category as those they are now labelling 'anxious'. I think school refusal students have quite severe issues coming from differing areas and reasons. School refusal is a mental health issue and not a case of the overly anxious child who frets about how they might perform in a test for example.

School Refusal seems to have gone under the radar again and be replaced by anxious kids who worry about their grades. If our kids could attend enough to get grades would be good!!

The positive thing out of this research, however, is that more resouces will be put into primary and secondary schools to help support these kids. And finally there might be help at the primary school level that we so desperately needed when my son was young. Getting help and of the right kind early, is vital.

Is this trend towards support something that is also happening in the UK? Are there more resources in the schools now than 5-10 years ago?

Posted in the Forum by Linda

Thursday, 29 November 2018


Is school more of a waste of time and about resistance to control? In a world where I can get answers instantly online, when it takes a whole hour of class to teach so little, one has to wonder if the education system has advanced fast enough to todays needs. Do you relate well to Prince EA?

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Separation phobia? Keeping in touch with an app

Knowing where your child is at any given moment can seem an important part of parenting, and new apps have been designed to enable parents to track their children's movements.  Whether this is a desirable advance, or not, is a moot point.

Teenagers, particularly, need space and time to demonstrate their independence, and parents need to be able to trust their youngsters.

I have just been introduced to Life360 - there are others. Life360’s family locator app helps you to keep a watchful eye over your family with a handy map display and alerts for when someone reaches a specified location.

Standout features of the app include its Family Channel, helping everyone keep in touch at the same time. It also alerts you when one of your family members has reached a specified destination. Other positives are that the app helps you track lost or stolen phones and provides a Crash Detection service, getting in touch to offer assistance for a driver if they believe they may have had an accident.

If you happen to be one of those people that are concerned about “big brother” tracking you, this is not the App you want.

But if you are the parent of a child who suffers from a separation fear, maybe this is something to consider.  If your child could see where you were at any given moment, might this be a reassurance?

When you tell your child when you take them in to school you will stay close-by, they can see where you are. Or if you message to say you are going to the supermarket, they can see you do that.

Might be worth trying?  The app is free.

[Read reviews: they are not all good!]

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Shoveling snow

This was drawn to my attention by my daughter, who was the inspiration for this site.

Since she posted it on social media, she has received many responses, particularly from boys, normally reticent about speaking out about their issues.  Maybe early beginnings of a new trend? I certainly hope so.

They are not her words, but express her feelings.

When you have depression it’s like it snows every day.

Some days it’s only a couple of inches. It’s a pain in the ass, but you still make it to work, the grocery store. Sure, maybe you skip the gym or your friend’s birthday party, but it IS still snowing and who knows how bad it might get tonight. Probably better to just head home.  Your friend notices, but probably just thinks you are flaky now, or kind of an asshole.

Some days it snows a foot. You spend an hour shoveling out your driveway and are late to work. Your back and hands hurt from shoveling. You leave early because it’s really coming down out there. Your boss notices.

Some days it snows four feet. You shovel all morning but your street never gets plowed. You are not making it to work, or anywhere else for that matter. You are so sore and tired you just get back in bed. By the time you wake up, all your shoveling has filled back in with snow. Looks like your phone rang; people are wondering where you are. You don’t feel like calling them back, too tired from all the shoveling. Plus they don’t get this much snow at their house so they don’t understand why you’re still stuck at home. They just think you’re lazy or weak, although they rarely come out and say it.

Some weeks it’s a full-blown blizzard. When you open your door, it’s to a wall of snow. The power flickers, then goes out. It’s too cold to sit in the living room anymore, so you get back into bed with all your clothes on. The stove and microwave won’t work so you eat a cold Pop Tart and call that dinner. You haven’t taken a shower in three days, but how could you at this point? You’re too cold to do anything except sleep.

Sometimes people get snowed in for the winter. The cold seeps in. No communication in or out. The food runs out. What can you even do, tunnel out of a forty foot snow bank with your hands? How far away is help? Can you even get there in a blizzard? If you do, can they even help you at this point? Maybe it’s death to stay here, but it’s death to go out there too.

The thing is, when it snows all the time, you get worn all the way down. You get tired of being cold. You get tired of hurting all the time from shoveling, but if you don’t shovel on the light days, it builds up to something unmanageable on the heavy days. You resent the hell out of the snow, but it doesn’t care, it’s just a blind chemistry, an act of nature. It carries on regardless, unconcerned and unaware if it buries you or the whole world.

Also, the snow builds up in other areas, places you can’t shovel, sometimes places you can’t even see. Maybe it’s on the roof. Maybe it’s on the mountain behind the house. Sometimes, there’s an avalanche that blows the house right off its foundation and takes you with it. A veritable Act of God, nothing can be done. The neighbors say it’s a shame and they can’t understand it; he was doing so well with his shoveling.

I don’t know how it went down for Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade. It seems like they got hit by the avalanche, but it could’ve been the long, slow winter. Maybe they were keeping up with their shoveling. Maybe they weren’t. Sometimes, shoveling isn’t enough anyway. It’s hard to tell from the outside, but it’s important to understand what it’s like from the inside.

I firmly believe that understanding and compassion have to be the base of effective action. It’s important to understand what depression is, how it feels, what it’s like to live with it, so you can help people both on an individual basis and a policy basis. I’m not putting heavy shit out here to make your Friday morning suck. I know it feels gross to read it, and realistically it can be unpleasant to be around it, that’s why people pull away.

I don’t have a message for people with depression like “keep shoveling." It’s asinine.  Of course you’re going to keep shoveling the best you can, until you physically can’t, because who wants to freeze to death inside their own house? We know what the stakes are. My message is to everyone else. Grab a fucking shovel and help your neighbor. Slap a mini snow plow on the front of your truck and plow your neighborhood. Petition the city council to buy more salt trucks, so to speak.

Depression is blind chemistry and physics, like snow. And like the weather, it is a mindless process, powerful and unpredictable with great potential for harm. But like climate change, that doesn’t mean we are helpless. If we want to stop losing so many people to this disease, it will require action at every level.

Edit: Feel free to share this with anyone or anywhere you think it might help. We aren't alone. Even when there's warm bodies around when we are cold we still shiver. Offer a blanket.

It’s taken from the suicide prevention mage thread on reddit. I can try and send you the link to if you want to credit. 

I think it’s useful on many levels to help others understand depression.
Not sure if this will work but this is the comment

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Child Law Advice

The Child Law Advice Service provides legal advice and information on family, child and education law affecting children and families in England. This service is provided via this website packed with how to guides and information pages. A dedicated intensive support telephone line is also available for complex matters and clarifying questions.
We cover legal issues that may arise following relationship breakdown as well as Local Authority intervention and child protection issues. 
Our education advice ranges from admissions issues to exclusions as well as what to do if your child is being bullied to how to get help for your child if you suspect they have a Special Educational Need. 
The Child Law Advice Service is part of Coram Children’s Legal Centre, the UK’s leading children’s legal charity, and falls under the Coram Group. 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

The E-Learning Service

The E-Learning Service offers an alternative method of delivering education to children out of lessons or main-stream school using technology.

In its 13 years of operation, it has provided online education to several thousand pupils who have reintegrated back into school or continued with entries for GCSE and other exams with the Service.

Whilst primarily Norfolk based, it already works with schools and academies in Suffolk, Kent and Cambridgeshire and is open to extending provision to education establishments across the UK.  The E-Learning Service also offers its services to home educating parents.

Students of all key-stages can select subjects to study and lessons are individually prepared for them by e-teachers. Lessons are accessed on-line and can be done by pupils on any day of the week and at any time of the day.

A time-tabled one-hour weekly webinar tutorial is available to students in each of their subjects giving them an opportunity to talk to or IM their teacher and to get direct help with any work issues they may be having.  In addition, e-teachers can be contacted directly for help via the secure online email.

Work is usually done by the pupil at home but can be accessed from any computer with an internet connection, including those at school, college, an inclusion unit, education centre or PRU.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Another duvet day

Some time ago, I was asked to write an article for a head teachers association publication.  The final published version has disappeared, but I recently received back my draft.

Another duvet day

The house had been like a pressure cooker about to explode.  Tempers were frayed.  There had been swearing, shouting and banging of doors.  Perhaps not all that unusual in a house full of teenagers, but we had experienced nothing like it. I took the dog for a walk.

Returning home, I saw a strange car parked outside my home.  As I neared, my daughter came out of the house and climbed into the back of the car.  I reached the vehicle before it was driven off and realised that she was sitting beside her friend, and that the friend’s mother was the driver.  After a brief discussion, I allowed my daughter to be taken away. There had been no discussion – she was just leaving.

At about this time, my daughter had been encouraged to keep a diary.  She chose to do this in pictorial form.  When I saw it, I was appalled.  Appalled and frightened.  The pages were black. Words such as ‘I hate myself’ and ‘There’s no point in living’ leapt out at me.  I needed help.  We all needed help. And we were not getting it.  I took the book to a senior social worker. It was clear she did not understand the problems we were facing.  ‘She has got you round her finger’, she said.  But others, including our doctor, did understand.

One day, I noticed the office cleaner arriving late for work.  She looked tearful.  Asking her what the problem was, she confided that her son was failing to stay in school.  She had discovered that he would run out of the back door after she dropped him off at the school gates, and make his way home.  At last I had found someone else in the same situation.  For our daughter was a ‘school refuser’.

Whether I did the office cleaner any good by listening to her problem, I don’t know.  But for me it was a relief to have someone to talk to.  Her son had been summoned before the Children’s Panel, and her claim that the appointed Social Worker never gave any support was fully believed when she failed to attend the hearing – twice!

Our daughter had a very difficult school trip, aged 13, and this seemed to be the tipping point when she stopped attending school regularly – and then refused to attend at all.

Various coping mechanisms were attempted or explored – threats of penalties, rewards, advice on outcomes, etc.  Deadlines came and went, punishments implemented.  Nothing seemed to improve the situation.

Meetings were held with the school.  Special provisions were offered and put in place: first in line for meals; come in late; leave early; private room for study; and more.

It was after one of these meetings that I met one of the deputy head teachers outside the school (He was on smoking patrol).  He confided that his brother had been a school refuser.  Later, I was to meet a chief executive of a children’s charity, and discovered that her niece had a similar problem.  ‘School Phobia’, or ‘School Refusal’ seemed to be a bigger problem than I had imagined, but little was being done about it.  Where were we to get help?

It became clear that our child’s needs were not being met by the local secondary school’s support systems.  Whilst they did care and did try, this was just too big for them.  We tried the local health service.  Our doctors are excellent.  The nursing staff is first class – but all seemed unable to help.

We were referred to CAHMS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service) where, aged 13, her problems were dismissed after 6 weeks of counselling , as ‘not bad enough to merit further treatment,’ and at a second referral 3 years later as ‘not able (because of her attitude) to engage in a psychological approach’. We were told by a psychiatrist (seen privately when she was aged 14) that she had a chronic anxiety problem. We attempted alternative therapy treatment to correct an apparent minerals and vitamins imbalance.  A local nurse worked with her to build her self esteem.  Her tutors understood her issues and worked around them.  A Social Worker was appointed by the Reporter to the Children’s Panel to do an assessment, but English was not his first language, and we just could not understand what he was asking us. And there were more.

Whilst almost all of the support agencies did try to find a solution, nothing seemed to make a difference.  We felt pushed and pulled by conflicting demands, not helped, it must be said, by our daughter, who would often be uncommunicative, or even walk out of, these consultations.  She found it frustrating with the continued promises of help to bring an end to her problems never seemed to work for her and left her feeling very negative about accepting help – or seeing another professional.

What more could they have done?  I tried to persuade the people involved with out daughter to talk to each other, to share notes, to discuss options.  This just did not seem possible.  When our son had a severe accident, there was a case management meeting where those involved shared strategies and agreed procedures.  Why was this not possible for our daughter?

One day, again returning from after a dog walking session, I met a neighbour, and found myself unburdening onto her.  I realise then that I needed some form of networking opportunity to be able to share the bad, and the good, moments; to discuss potential resources.  I had already tried ParentLine, but gave up after failing to get through – though I met one of their managers socially, who was very supportive.  One on-line support network moderates contributions and only accepts positive comments.  Another devoted a page to ‘School Refusers’ – but was totally blank apart from a message: ‘Content to follow’.  It never did, and the page was later removed.

Throughout all of this, we had worked on the theory that if our daughter was to get back into school, she would only be able to do so if she maintained relationships with her friends.  And they did try.  Our biggest concern was an on-line boy friend, but I believe the reality was that this was someone she felt totally safe with, because they were never going to meet face-to-face. There was, however, a time when this seemed a possibility.

However, as the friends dwindled, links with the local school became more tenuous.  Tutoring was offered, but not fully funded.  Private tutors were found, but sessions were often not attended.  A place in a special school was arranged, but this brought its own difficulties.  A private room for exams was provided at the local school, and a few exams were taken.  However, at 16 she was signed off as a school leaver.  She attempted college, but this did not work out for her.  A different solution was required.

We were aware of an independent girls’ school a little over an hour away.  We had tried schools nearer our home, day and boarding, but they seemed unwilling to provide the support required.

We attended a couple of meetings at the school to discuss options.  We were impressed by the flexibility that the school were prepared to offer and learned of other girls who had similar difficulties.

After almost a year out of school, we were pleased when our daughter made a quick decision that she wanted to try this school.  Initially, it was just day to day – and by no means every day. Later, she managed on overnight stay, and slowly we built up to full boarding.  But even then, some days were taken as ‘duvet days’.  Regular communication with school staff, encouraging texts and emails on days she stayed at home, helped maintain the links.

I am in no doubt that this school’s adaptable and very supportive approach will be the turning point on which our daughter’s future hinges.  University is still some way off, as is independent living, perhaps.  But we are making steady progress.

Many of us in this situation feel frustrated by the lack of progress.  We are not good at sharing our anxieties about our children.  We are prepared to extol their virtues – but not publicise their failings.  As a result, it is difficult to identify options that may help us, as parents, cope with the stress of living with a school refuser, take care of the remainder of the family and hold down a job.  Meanwhile, of course, we are also seeking solutions for our child.

And so, I decided that, as there appeared to be no support for parents of school refusers, I would set something up. was born.  Traffic to the website is slow, but steady.  It dips during the school holidays, but rises steeply at the first week of term.

The site is probably in need of re-building.  It is not working as well as I hoped it would.  From my own needs, I wanted an area where parents of children who refused to attend school could share their concerns.  I wanted an area where we could receive support from others. And I wanted an area where resources would be available. does not provide solutions. That is, of course, what we all want.  We are also not good at admitting failure, and that is how many of us feel.

The site does provide a forum for people in similar situations to ‘meet’ and then hold off-line private discussions.  I know that these do happen. would also benefit from a moderator who is not himself the parent of a ‘school refuser’, but is understanding of the issues for parents - and for children.

Most importantly, lets parents know that they are not alone.  The site demonstrates that our child is not the only one in this situation and it helps us see that support is available.

As I wrote this several years ago, things have changed with the website, and we do now have an excellent moderator.  Thank you  Linda.  We all owe you so very much.