School Refuser - The Blog

Friday, 26 November 2010

School refusers/phobia conference

In the Forum, a suggestion has been made that a conference should be held to discuss school refusal.

A first step would be to clarify aims and objectives from the conference. But there are a number of other questions that need to be answered:
  • Who would come to the conference
  • What would the agenda be?
  • Do we want to educate schools and health professionals or
  • Do we want to help the parents?
  • Would parents be interested?
  • Would we even get health professionals interested?
  • Would it be an opportunity to get press awareness?
  • Would a conference be of interest?
  • and then of course, we have to look at the cost...How much would people be willing to pay?
  • Where should it be held? (London has been suggested)
  • Who would organise the event?
  • Where do we get the funding?
  • When? (September 2011 has been suggested)
What does everyone think? Your thoughts would be really appreciated...

There are two parents here who are definitely interested and maybe their daughter.

Monday, 15 November 2010

The Children's Legal Centre

One of the problems we face as parents of a school refuser is getting the right help and support. Things become more difficult when we begin to face legal threats.

The Children's Legal Centre is a unique, independent national charity concerned with law and policy affecting children and young people.

Their aims and objectives are:

  • To promote and uphold children's rights within the context of UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the European Convention on Human Rights in the UK and internationally.
  • To monitor and develop law, policy and practice concerning children and young people, to inform and influence policy makers and the general public.
  • To improve access to justice through legal advice, information and representation for children, young people and adults working on their behalf.
  • To publish a range of legal guides and information on child law, policy and practice.
  • To carry out research in the field of child law to assist policy reform and the application of law relating to children.
  • To provide technical expertise and training programmes to states, Inter-Governmental Organisations, Non-Governmental Organisations and United Nations agencies.
I have no experience of this organisation, but they might be worth a try. I would welcome any feedback.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

Access to Education for children and young people with Medical needs

On 1 November 2001, the Government issued statutory guidance on access to education for children and young people in England and Wales with medical needs. It set out minimum national standards of education for children who are unable to attend school because of medical needs.

The education of pupils with medical needs is a partnership and it is essential that education, health and other agencies work closely together to provide the support to enable a pupil with medical needs to receive appropriate education. This includes Local Authorities and schools and related bodies.

Full details can be found on the Department of Education website.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Forum problems

We are having problems with some of the threads on the Forum, for which we apologise.

We are attempting to resolve the issues.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Dealing with school stress - video

A new school year often triggers Publish Post

new worries for students, but for some children, the stress of going to school can spiral out of control.

Healthbeat reporter Sylvia Perez takes a look at the behavior that may signal a problem is this video on school refusal.

'I Hate School' Extreme Edition

Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Andrea Petersen sets out what she thinks school refusal means, and suggests how to fix it.

She writes:
What child hasn't dreaded September, the end of summer and the return to school. But for some kids, the prospect of school produces a level of fear so intense that it is immobilizing, resulting in what's known as school-refusal behavior.

These are the kids who may be absent for weeks or months. Some may cry or scream for hours every morning in an effort to resist leaving home. Others may hide out in the nurse's office. Some kids who miss school are simply truant—they'd just rather be doing something else. And sometimes there are genuine reasons to fear school, because of bullying, for example. But in about two-thirds of cases, a psychiatric problem, most commonly an anxiety disorder, is the cause, according to research led by Christopher A. Kearney, professor and director of clinical training at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

You can read the full article, which has audio links, here>>>

What do you think of her views?  Please let us have your comments.

Monday, 6 September 2010

I understand what you are going through

The following is taken from another forum - if you were the author, then please contact us.

I understand completely what you are going through. My son (who is now thankfully doing well in college) had an average school attendance of 35 days in high school.

It started around fifth grade and ended up getting really bad in junior high until he hardly attended school at all in high school.

He started to always complain that he didn't feel well. I don't know how much money and time we spent on doctor visits, visiting specialists, being worried sick when having him tested for diseases like MS to find out what was wrong with him.

Luckily nothing was wrong medically. While that was a blessing it was always very perplexing because we had no idea what was wrong. He didn't do drugs, he didn't leave the house, he slept most of the time and was up all night.

We ended up taking him to a psychiatrist and a psychologist. He was prescribed countless anti depressants but none of them helped.

My biggest suggestion is to find out exactly why she isn't attending school. And not just the reason she says initially, ie she's sick, or what not. Or even the secondary reason. You can't be sure what the reason it is because she's obviously trying to avoid it.

Is she extremely intelligent? I'd suggest having her intelligence tested if you haven't already. She may seem to score really high in reading or math which may make her seem quite intelligent but if one of those sections is a little bit below average. This may be a cause of anxiety because she's scared to go to a particular class where she doesn't exceed well. If this is the case you can try working with her on that subject each night or even hiring a tutor.

Was it very sudden? I don't want to make you paranoid but it could have been an extreme situation such as assault or rape that occurred in school or with some of her school mates. Or it could be something not as big but still very serious to her such as bullying. At the school where my son went when I brought this up with the principle they just immediately turned cold to me and denied that any bullying happened at the school to anyone.

Did your daughter ever really have any good friends? Like a *best* friend who she had sleep overs with and connected to the ankle with? This was the case with my son, he didn't really have any best friends. He had a few people he knew and went to the movies with a few times but he spent most of his time alone at lunch and such so he just stopped going.

He didn't have any connections to any other children as we later found out. What he did do a lot of was play on the computer. He played a game called "Counter Strike." And was apparently really good at it. The way we got him to come out of his shell was to take him to this computer cafe where they had tournaments. He connected with a lot of the kids there and came out of his shell and only missed 7 days of school of his last 2 marking periods in his senior year. He really started to get better.

Just remember that whenever she says mean words to be patient. She doesn't really mean it, she's just scared to talk about what's really bothering her. Trust is a big issue here. I would not suggest snooping as this could compromise any trust you may gain. You do however need to keep an eye out for signs of suicidal tendencies.

Look at what she's doing. She has to be doing something all day. If she's reading, buy her a book she wants. This may seem like rewarding bad behavior since she isn't going to school, but remember you want to gain her trust. This could even lead to other things like a book club or something at the local book store.

Does she write? There are tons of great writing classes out there.

What does she do? I think the biggest thing is to find what she does and connect her with people like her doing those things. Get her excited about something.

I hope this helps you. I'm not a professional but I've been in your situation. This may not sound like what you've gone through but I hope it gives you some encouragement. Hang in there and be patient.

And to you children suggesting she should spank her child... until you've been in her shoes you really do not understand. This is not something that can be solved by a mere spanking.

There is a clear reason why she isn't attending school. She doesn't want to be there for whatever reason. If you make her feel unwelcome at home, where will she feel welcome? Basically what you're suggesting is make it so uncomfortable at home that she goes to school. But in all likelihood that's not where she'll go. You shouldn't suggest such things lightly. Actually think. She'd be more likely to run away from home or even worse, commit suicide.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Red Balloon Learner Centres

Red Balloon logo
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about Red Balloon Learner Centres. Red Balloon Learner Centres are set up specifically to help children who cannot go to school because they have been badly bullied. There are currently six centres – in Cambridge, Liverpool, Norwich, Preston, Harrow and Warwick.

I recently had a conversation with their Chief Executive, Carrie Herbert, from whom I learnt more about the charity, and the service they provide. I have to say I was impressed.

Red Balloon will consider applications from anyone who is having difficulty attending mainstream education; those who are fortunate to live within the catchment area of one of their centres could do worse that taking a look.

For those living outside these areas, Red Balloon are seeking more centres, and would be pleased to discuss the possibility of working with others to achieve that.

Further details can be found in their website:

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

When does school refusal start?

One of the points put to me concerns early recognition of school refusal, and the need to respond appropriately and as early as possible.

Procedures must be put in place for SR to be picked up at an early stage as possible and acted upon quickly, there has to be immediate access to 'professionals' instead of months waiting for referrals, as we know that the quicker this is dealt with the better.

But when does school refusal start?

Almost every child will have a day, or a few, where they attempt to refuse to attend school. This may just be a 'Do I have to go?' or a 'I've got a sore tummy, must I go?', or it could be a refusal to get dressed, or get in the school transport.

Any one of these could be the first sign of a serious case of school refusal, or it might be a one off attempt at exerting a little bit of control on their life. How can we tell? And when do we start to consult the school, or the doctor?

It was also a question put to me by a deputy head teacher, with responsibility for school refusers. Of course, I had no real answer!

One of our Forum topics is on 'Early signs', but so far there is nothing to help us know when to call in the professionals.

Perhaps there needs to be set number of days of absence? Perhaps there already is?

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

An alternative to school

I have some interesting meetings in the last couple of days when I was able to explore more about school refusal issues. I will write about more of these later, but wanted to pick up on one this time.

I was at a ChildLine event on Monday, celebrating 20 years of ChildLine in Scotland, and recognising that 422,000 children and young people have been helped during that period. We also took the opportunity to congratulate Esther Rantzen, who founded the charity, and who celebrated her 70th birthday yesterday!

This was a chance not to be missed, and I took the opportunity of mentioning the problems faced by children who are unable to face school, and the stress that their parents experience as a result.

I was aware that Esther was involved in a number of charities besides ChildLine, now part of the NSPCC. it turns out that she is Patron of Red Balloon.

Red Balloon Learner Centres are set up specifically to help children who cannot go to school because they have been badly bullied. There are currently six centres – in Cambridge, Liverpool, Norwich, Preston, Harrow and Warwick.

Esther gave me an introduction to the Chief Executive, and I have written to her to see if there is a way that their bullying remit can be widened.

I note the following guidance that Red Balloon gives:

Usually in order to get local authority funding for a place at Red Balloon, you need to follow certain procedures. You must have made a complaint to your state school about the bullying your child received, and follow the guidelines in the school's complaints procedure (ask them for it). Once you have done this and yet your child still won't go to school and is not getting an adequate education, you could ask for a referral to your local Red Balloon.

Getting support from your GP about the connection between the bullying and the mental/physical health of your child will help you make a case. At any time, contact your local councillors or your MP about the fact that your child is unable to access a full-time education in mainstream school for fear of bullying.

Red Balloon has only limited resources, so for those of us living out-with their catchments areas, we still face difficulties accessing an alternative education for our children. However, Red Balloon Learner centres do seem to be an additional option for those lucky enough to be near one.

You can help them by making a donation; please do so here:

You can read more about the charity here>>>>

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Taking action to help school refusers

Many parents who use this site have written to me, making points that they feel need to be addressed so that we can help families who are struggling with a school refuser, or who want to make the process easier for those who are encountering the problems for the first time.

I have listed these in no particular order, because they are all as important as each other. If you feel I have left out something important, or want to discuss one of the points further, please make a comment below.

Raise the profile of anxiety in children and how debilitating it can be. Schools need educating about how awful for the children it is.
Raise awareness of School Refusers with the public, schools, professionals etc. and hopefully enable the professionals to have a little more training/empathy regarding S.R. and their parents.
School need a 'central point/link' where the S.R, parents, teachers, health professionals etc can send all information.
Procedures must be put in place for SR to be picked up at an early stage as possible and acted upon quickly, there has to be immediate access to 'professionals' instead of months waiting for referrals, as we know that the quicker this is dealt with the better.
It is so hard to get the professionals together, My daughter is under three different people, a psychiatrist, a paediatrician and a psychologist, but they don’t talk to each other.
Why are these children are not diagnosed and treated effectively and it is left for the families to sort the problems out themselves?
Am I able to get funding from my local Education Authority (for alternatives to school education)?
SR should be recognised by schools and the professionals as a real illness.
SR families should not live with the threat of prosecution
Let SR to go to the PRU full time if they can. (PRU is pupil referral unit but now called alternative route centre in some places.)
Make SR more well understood; School Phobia is something that affects the whole family; everyday we wake up wondering, will our daughter be ok today?

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

A letter to EWO

Dear Sir/Madam,

Thank you for your ongoing interest in my child. I am pleased to see that we share the same commitment to providing my child with a suitable education.

I would like to direct you to to the 1996 Education Act "The parent of every child of compulsory school age shall cause him to receive efficient full-time education suitable ;
a) to his age, ability, and aptitude, and
b) to any special educational needs he may have,
either by regular attendance at school or otherwise."

My child has school phobia, also known as "school refusal"or "school based anxiety." This is a recognised condition whereby children are unable to go to school due to mental health issues. This is clearly, therefore, a special educational need; indeed, it also can be categorised as a disability according to the definition of the Disability Discrimination Act. As such, we must work together to look at a “suitable education”, which may not at this time be a school-based education. Other Local Authorities provide support for pupils with school phobia such as home tutoring or internet schools and I am keen to discuss options such as these with you (I am a member of an internet support group for parents with school phobic children and can assure you that most Local Authorities work hard to fulfil their legal and statutory duties to provide children such as mine with a suitable education.) I am also keen to work with other agencies that could help my child access his education entitlement.

It is vital that we work together at this time to support my child. (I am extremely unhappy that the Educational Welfare Service for ….Council has failed to recognise my child’s needs and chosen to pursue a discriminatory approach in this instance. I would like to direct you to the case of East Suffolk Local Authority and remind you that there is a legal precedent for a council being found guilty of failing a child like mine who had been diagnosed with school phobia. Should you seek to pursue a case against me, I will not hesitate to seek legal representation and challenge your service under the Disability Discrimination Act .I will also make a formal complaint to the Local Authority, consult SENDIST and approach the media.) If you feel that this is outside your personal experience, I would be grateful if you would refer this to a Senior Educational Welfare Officer.

I feel we need to arrange a further meeting as soon as possible to discuss how we can work together to help my child.

Yours sincerely,

Your name

I am unsure as to the origins of the above letter, but it may be useful to someone battling with their education authority over thier child's education.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Anxiety disorder, school phobia, or refusal - what's in a name?

I have been following an interesting debate in the Forum about how we refer to our children who find it difficult to attend school. This comes, in part, from the lack of understanding that we parents receive when we mention to other parents the difficulties we face - or even when talking to school management.

One parent writes: I get a completely different reaction from people when I talk about my son's anxiety disorder stopping him going to school to 'he is a school refuser' or he has 'school phobia'.

And another says: Originally I used to say he had 'School Refusal' which was usually met with blank looks or blame. I think we have all met that response at one time or another. My initial reaction was that it is an interesting line of thought, but are we in danger of disguising the issue if we give 'school refusal' or 'school phobia' a more generalist name? We could go one stage further and say 'she's nae weil' - or 'feeling sick'.

However, she goes on to say: I don't mean that we in any way water down what School Refusal is - the general public and education sector (and support professionals) need to be educated on how real and devastating it is for the child and us.

And that remains our key problem - how to get the message across. The public's reaction to the recent Daily Mail and BBC articles demonstrates that we have a long way to go.

Friday, 11 June 2010

BBC news coverage of School Refusal

I was still in my bed this morning when the BBC broadcast a short piece about School Refusal. Maybe others saw it and can comment.

However, when searching for further information on the BBC website, I came across an article from last year which is worth a read:
Is there such a thing as school phobia?

It followed a situation where a school was being asked to apologise to the family of a boy it prosecuted for truancy. I understand that today's story involved a school that took parents to court over refusal, but the case was overturned.

That sounds like good news to me!

Thursday, 20 May 2010

From hope to despair - and back to hope

I read every entry in the Forum. Some bring tears to my eyes, some make me angry and some make me laugh. But most of all, they bring a sense of amazement at the strength we need, and find if we dig deep enough, to cope with the difficulties we face in the care of our children who cannot, for whatever reason, get themselves into school.

This week has been a roller coaster ranging from hope to despair - and back to hope. But for me, the anger is still there. Too many people just do not understand our plight. And these people include the very ones who should be offering support and care. Schools seem to have no method of communication with parents (or children) when the pupil is not attending regularly. Why not? Agencies with responsibilities for the care of our children do not seem to be able to communicate amongst themselves. Or us. Why not?

I have also been reading of the strength some of our youngsters are showing in seeking a way to overcome this phobia (if that is what it is). So there is still hope!

And I have been reading of the support the parents have been receiving from each other. And that certainly brings hope.

The other theme this week has been on the subject of 'taking action'. 'Somebody should do something' is a popular cry. I suppose that somebody' is me and you...

Monday, 17 May 2010

Useful books

A couple of books have been brought to my attention:
  • School Refusal in Adolescence (Parent, Adolescent and Child Training Skills) by Martin Herbert - a highly accessible and practical guide is designed for anyone working with children, adolescents and their families.

  • In "Can't Go, Won't Go" Mike Fortune-Wood looks at the scale of the problem and how families are treated by a range of statutory authorities.Interspersed with moving accounts from families who have struggled with school refusal, sometimes over a decade or more, this important and ground-breaking book sign-posts the need for better communication and strategies from service providers from schools to psychologists. It suggests that the current trend to either medicalise or demonise children who refuse to go to school will only add to society's problems as well as damaging the individuals concerned. Fortune-Wood goes on to document an alternative approach; that of removing children from school to home educate them, suggesting that far from leading to disaster (as professionals often predict) this can become a life enhancing decision.

Further books on the subject can be found in our book shop.

Friday, 30 April 2010


40 years ago, I was given a nickname. It was not unusual for my peers to have and to use nicknames, but, although it was not especially unkind, I found it embarrassing and unpleasant.

I was reminded of this reading through 'a site for children/teenagers who are scared of school for various reasons, or anyone who has been affected by the fear of school'. One of the people who run the site, Lisa, suffered bullying at school with her peers chanting her nickname. is a well laid out site with a forum and chat room. How well the latter is used, I cannot say, but this may well be a place for our children and young people to go when they are looking for peer support.

One of the problems they face is the loss of contact with their friends. At there is a chance they might build new relationships with people who can help.

Of course, we need to be careful that other users are who they say they are, and normal safety rules for using network sites must apply.

That nickname? Walking along a street last year with friends, I saw a beggar, who recognised me, and called out to me using my nickname! Ouch!

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Duvet Days

By request, I wrote an article for a journal, which, as far as I know, has yet to be published. This was brought to mind by a series of posts in our Forum over the last few days; my article was called 'Duvet Days'.

Now, I am not claiming credit for this terminology, but am instead going to make an admission: I never used this expression with my daughter!

Reading recent posts, some of which gave me joy, and some of which brought tears to the eyes, I find that we should have been giving these days recognition for what they were, rather than as just another occasion for confrontation. But how do we find a happy balance between encouragement and submission?

Whilst many of us have found that our child needs to feel some measure of control, we also need to be able to exercise our parental responsibilities. We also need to be able to have a balance in all our lives where there is time for some fun.

Maybe by admitting today is a Duvet Day we can manage that, but reserve the right that other 'blip' days are not?

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

The HandsOnScotland Toolkit is an online resource for anybody working with children and young people. The website was developed by Playfield Institute (NHS Fife) in partnership with Barnardo's and the University of Dundee. It was commissioned by HeadsUpScotland, the national project for children and young people’s mental health.

One of their toolkits is designed to help professionals working with children and young people who refuse to attend school. There are a number of suggestions that will work well for parents, including tips on counselling. How many of us have got into that confrontation from which there is no escape?

Some of the suggestions may seem out of kilter with the advice we give each other here, but perhaps we have got it wrong? I wonder what you think...

Helping a child or young person who refuses to go to school

Friday, 19 March 2010

Scottish Government initiative to encourage parents to seek help

This week, through their 'Smarter Scotland' project, the Scottish Government is tell parents to 'Just ask'.

They say that:
" can be provided in a variety of ways to meet the individual needs of the child. That could mean dedicated help in the classroom or access to specialised equipment but there are many other types of help available as well. If you think your child could benefit from assistance, it's easy to get things started.

"The best way is to contact their school. However, you can also visit the Enquire website for more information and advice on what to do next.

"In the next few months we'll be taking our roadshow out across Scotland to talk about additional support for learning.

"Whatever the circumstances, Additional Support for learning is available to help you and your child. All you have to do is ask."

A section on the STV website has been set aside for real life stories of people who have benefited from additional support.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Our Forum - and those annoying ads

I am becoming increasingly annoyed with the advertisements on the Forum, and would like to be able to go 'Ad Free'.

This would cost $40.

Any volunteers?

If you are interested in contributing, please get in touch, and I will tell you how you can make a donation.

Costs of hosting, etc, are covered (I wish!)through purchases site visitors make through the Amazon advertisements, so the more you buy, the more it helps! But please do not think this is a money making venture - it very much is not.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Encouraging signs of understanding? Maybe not!

I was really disappointed to jwud's entry in the Forum, if which he/she explains that their son was told he would receive detention if he was late for school again. However, Sue's response gave cause for hope.

Sue explained how she gave her name and details to one of the professionals involved at CAMHS so they could communicate, because she felt she was coming across as an over-protective mother. The Head of Year was very good, especially after she'd had a call from the professional, she ensured all who taught Sue's daughter were aware of her problems and not to put too much pressure on her during lessons etc.

Penny also told of a similar action she had taken, and the positive response she received.

But it would be wrong to say that all is now roses for Sue and Penny and their children. However, there does seem to be some sign of hope that things are improving in the way the authorities are supporting families with children.

I hope i have got this right!

Monday, 8 March 2010

Welcome back

We have replaced the previous blog as it once again ran into difficulties. I think this time the problems are terminal, so we have set up this new one with Blogger.

It is not quite ready yet - there are still some tweaks to do before it is finished, and I am still gettting to grips with the format.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Another New Blog

Oh Dear!  Once again, our blog provider has encountered problems, so we are experimenting with a new one.  I think the problems are terminal this time, so we will probably stick with Blogger.

There are still some issues with the new template design, but I hope it looks reasonably integrated with the rest of the website?