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Last month 596 parent/carers and young people accessed our service which led to a total of 2,859 emails, contact forms, telephone calls and face to face meetings. Contact us if you need our advice and support.  

Emotional Based School Avoidance

Many children and young people worry about school.   Anxieties are part of life and learning to deal with them is part of growing up. However sometimes a child’s worries may lead to difficulties attending school. If your child has high levels of anxiety and does not want to attend school, they may be experiencing Emotional Based School Avoidance (EBSA). 

For children with SEND, anxiety or sensory overload are common factors affecting behaviour and attendance, which are not always immediately identified. If you think there may be underlying needs, discuss and explore with school how these might be identified and supported.

You can arrange a meeting with all involved professionals and school staff to devise a plan in conjunction with you and your child.  The plan should identify any special educational needs and how your child will be supported when they are at school and include what the next steps will be.   It is likely that there may be difficulties implementing the plan; these should be anticipated, and solutions found.

The school should keep an optimistic approach and offer support to you in getting your child to school; if your child fails to attend school on one day, start again the next day and keep in close communication with the school.  You can ask the school for a key member of staff to liaise with, as you will need to report any attendance difficulties immediately.  It is also important to remember there is likely to be more difficulty after a school holiday, period of illness or after the weekend.    

You may feel tempted to change schools, however research tells us that often difficulties will re-emerge in the new school and whenever possible it is normally better to try and resolve the issue in the current school.

Things you can do:

Ask your child what they find difficult and what they would like to change - this can help identify specific triggers and worries. Your child's views should be the starting point of any discussion about support.

Here are some ideas for support strategies you can raise with school which may help your child cope:

  • meet and greet by a trusted member of staff at the start (sometimes during or at the end) of the day
  • adult-led approaches – regularly checking with a child that they are okay
  • help to understand and manage their feelings and emotions
  • positive praise (for getting through a lesson - replacing sanctions for challenging behaviour)
  • 'time-out' card for when feeling overwhelmed in lessons
  • lesson breaks (to allow some calm down time)
  • changes to timetable if particular lessons a trigger
  • learning away from the classroom, in a dedicated area or room sometimes known as a 'safe space'
  • lunching away from the dinner hall, ask whether any lunchtime clubs available. (crowded dinner halls can cause anxiety)
  • 1:1 or small group interventions, support programmes, anxiety or friendship groups
  • leaving lessons or school 5 minutes early to avoid crowded corridors
  • parent and child to complete an Attendance Difficulty Assessment form to give the school a clearer understanding of the reason or the school refusal.
  • ensure the school have involved the local authority Attendance Specialist Team for advice and guidance on how they can support your child/young person to attend school regularly.

Essex Local Authority Guidance - Lets Talk- 'We Miss You'

The Essex Local Authority have developed a toolkit for ‘Maximising School Attendance’ to provide schools with resources and information to help support pupils with their attendance.  This is an Essex initiative written to provide school staff and other professionals with a first port of call guide on preventing pupil absence and identifying and supporting pupils who have school attendance difficulties.   An Attendance Difficulty Assessment form can be completed by the child/young person and the parent to help scale and identify the reason for the school refusal, and the resources toolkit will help the school to find solutions and targeted support for the child or young person. 

You can speak to the Senco, Pastoral Support Adviser, school nurse or your child's GP for advice, recommendations or a possible referral to specialist services. Share this information with school so they have the full picture, and you can discuss next steps together.

When you meet with school to discuss your child's support plan, you can ask about referral options, for example...

  • counselling
  • home tutoring
  • alternative education provision
  • a multi-agency meeting – a way of working with families and assessing needs and involving outside services
  • where support options available to school have been exhausted, a request to the local authority to carry out an EHC needs assessment.

Education Access Service

Alternative education provision can be made where a child/young person has health needs and is finding it difficult to attend school. This is often called a medical referral.  The school will be expected to demonstrate that they have made all reasonable adjustments and followed any advice recommended by the services supporting the pupil before a referral for support can be considered. Any advice or guidance issued to the school and the school’s response should form part of the referral. 

Whilst there is an expectation that any medical referrals made to the local authority for support will be accompanied by medical evidence confirming this situation, referrals will not be delayed due to the lack of appropriate medical evidence. The Education Access team will consider all the evidence available and will review the educational needs of the young person with the school, parents / carers and young person, where appropriate, to determine whether support can be offered.

You can read further information on our Children and Young People with Health and Medical Needs section.

Where a child or young person has an Education, Health and Care Plan (EHCP)

If your child is too unwell, or refusing, to attend the school named in their Education, Health and Care plan you could contact the local authority to request an early annual review.

An annual review will provide you with the opportunity to let the local authority know about the attendance difficulties, discuss progress being made towards outcomes, ask for further assessment and/or request any amendments you would like to make to the plan. 

You will also have an opportunity to request a particular school to be named, if the local authority decide to amend the plan following review.

Also in this section:


Some children may not be able to attend school for health reasons, for long term or intermittent periods.

Reduced Timetables Guidance

Guidance around how reduced timetables should be managed.

Penalty Notices

What to do if you receive a penalty notice.

Children and Young People with Medical Needs

Guidance on how education settings should support children/young people who have medical needs and information about individual health care plans.