School Refuser - The Blog

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!