Strategies for managing school refusal

(37 Posts)
ReallyTired Sat 12-Mar-16 08:42:09

What is the most effective way of getting a child who refuses to go to school back in school. It's easier to physically force a key stage 1 child into school than a strapping year 9 boy. Do you think it's more effective to parents to punish non attendence, if it might be caused by mental illness.

My son has been refusing to attend school. I have had almost everyone trying to advise me on how to get him back in school. Is there any serious research rather than just opinions.

We have gone down the line of turning off wifi and removing access to all electrical devices on days he refuses to go to school. We have also put the Xbox in the loft. Is punishment the right way to deal with a child who maybe suffering from severe anxiety? We have also had meetings with the school who think we should be even harsher.

destructogirl Sat 12-Mar-16 08:50:49

I'd be interested in any answers you get, my DS is the same. Extreme anxiety, I can't get him to go in some days, it's getting worse, refusing 2 or 3 times a week now.
School are obviously really annoyed about it.
I'm reluctant to punish because of his anxiety.
Totally don't know what to do sad

DoreenLethal Sat 12-Mar-16 08:53:24

Wouldn't you be getting in touch with the school and finding out what work is needed and making sure they are doing the work with you, at home?

destructogirl Sat 12-Mar-16 08:58:30

I like the idea of getting work from school to do at home. I'm going to ask them if we can do that.

lljkk Sat 12-Mar-16 09:34:18

Is it anxiety or can't-be-arsedness?
Anxiety can be treated but not always effectively.
Truants have existed for as long as schools have existed.

ReallyTired Sat 12-Mar-16 10:17:40

We had meetings with the school. They advocate tougher punishment. At what point does tough punishment becomes child abuse? The thought of sticking a rocket up his arse might be tempting, but social services might not approve. However social services are likely to object to him not going to school.

It would be interesting to know what former school refusers think would help. It seems a pretty common problem.

destructogirl Sat 12-Mar-16 11:44:12

We have the support lady and the senco at the school being quite nice about it, trying to come up with strategies etc. It's the one on the absense line who's getting pissed off with me. No one at our school is suggesting punishments at all, thankfully.
I'm very much in favour of the soft approach, one time DH was tough on him and made him go in and he ran away sad
Anxiety or can't be arsed? Sometimes I wonder if it's both.

noblegiraffe Sat 12-Mar-16 11:49:13

If you think it's mental health related rather than simple bunking off, you need to see the GP and start to go down the referral to CAMHs route.

ReallyTired Sat 12-Mar-16 12:20:33

We got a referal to both CAMHs and the child development centre for an assessment for dyspraxia. We need to find out why school is so awful that he does not want to go.

I feel that polices like fixed fines are unhelpful. Really fines should be reserved for parents who refuse to engage and do not try to get their child to attend school.

happygardening Sat 12-Mar-16 12:27:10

Is this a recent development or has he always been a reluctant scholar?

ReallyTired Sat 12-Mar-16 12:30:01

"Is this a recent development or has he always been a reluctant scholar?"

He had excellent attendence at primary school until year 6. Year 6 we had a lot of lates but attendence was OK. Year 7 and year 8 ds had good attendence (Ie. 97%). Year 9 has been a nightmare and its been like world war 3 to get him to school.

MovingOnUpMovingOnOut Sat 12-Mar-16 12:36:06

I don't mean to sound flippant but have you asked him why? Could he be physically ill or mentally?

Has there been any bullying and would a different school be an option?

Sallyhasleftthebuilding Sat 12-Mar-16 12:38:18

A year 9 should be able to tell you why.

Has anyone from school done a home visit on reluctant days?

Has the HT spoken to your DS

How long has this been going on?

How does he do academically?

What is he expecting to do after school?

VertigoNun Sat 12-Mar-16 12:45:46

I took mine out of school, they begged to go back after a year.

I suspect she has PDA as the symptoms fit and autism is a comorbidity of dx physical issues we have.

h0rsewithn0name Sat 12-Mar-16 16:36:28

Definitely see if you can get a referral to CAMHS. Then have a proper chat with your DS and the school. If the school haven't offered any support they cannot fine you.

If he just reluctant to go in, without any real issues like bullying then you do need a soft approach. What is his favourite subject? If it is PE for instance, suggest to the school that you take him in for just his PE lessons to start with. This will, at least, get him in the door. Collect him at the end of the lesson. Then after two weeks, choose another subject and gradually increase it.

The only other thing you can do is educate at home. It's surprisingly unregulated. You could get a tutor for English and maths and concentrate on these.

SavoyCabbage Sat 12-Mar-16 16:47:12

What's he doing when he is at home?

TheGoodEnoughWife Sat 12-Mar-16 16:47:26

I had a school refuser. Was a complete misery.
(Interesting I spoke to an Ed psych who had done research on this very thing and she said a common thing amongst school refusers is mums who think they are failing - I expect that comes after as the school blame the parents and put everything on to the parents to get their child to school)

We took our dd out to home educate him. I suspect he has some sort of social issue but he is happy and educated.

ClashCityRocker Sat 12-Mar-16 17:10:11

I was a school refuser from y9 onwards.

It got worse in y10 and y11. My attendance in y11 was 39%.

For me, personally, whilst there was an element of depression, part of it was the realisation that I could learn the same thing in ten minutes as I could in an hour's lesson - I remember being sat in a geography lesson making an information poster and thinking wtf am I doing here - I'm fourteen years old and basically sat here colouring in.

I think I may have reached the conclusion that 75% of school was a glorified babysitting service (I don't think that now, but did at the time) and was, therefore, a complete waste of my time.

I did have problems at home, including a total breakdown of relationship with my mother, but that was a bit of a chicken and egg situation - Ie the non-attendance contributed to the breakdown at least in part, whilst the problems at home exasperated the lack of attendance.

It probably didn't help that despite poor attendance, I did well in exams - didn't acheive my full potential, particularly in maths and science but still high achieving. This only confirmed my viewpoint.

This was in the early 2000's btw - I don't think there was any threat of my parents getting into trouble for it, to my knowledge at the time.

What would have got me back into school? My only thought for my situation was that at college my attendance was much better. This was due I think to a rapport I had with one of my tutors. It sounds cheesy, but he really inspired me and most of all I wanted to 'prove' myself to him. As at this point I had left home at sixteen and had social services involvement, he was assigned as my mentor for additional support and it really helped.

Are there any particular teachers that your son really likes/respects? Could the school involve him or her in mentoring your son in a pastoral care role?

Ultimately I think you need to know the reasons your son doesn't want to go to school - easier said than done. If someone asked me at the time, I think I would have just shrugged and said 'don't wanna. It's shit'.

Good luck flowers

ReallyTired Sat 12-Mar-16 17:52:01

"I did have problems at home, including a total breakdown of relationship with my mother, but that was a bit of a chicken and egg situation - Ie the non-attendance contributed to the breakdown at least in part, whilst the problems at home exasperated the lack of attendance."

I think that is a really hard one. Its weird, in my experience people blame the mother for a school refuser's behaviour, but never the father. I think that mothers feel totally powerless to know what to do. It is stressful when there are threats of fines and a potential criminal record.

Maybe teenage refusers don't understand their reasons for refusing to attend school. I think that there is an element of truth that you can learn something in a one to one situation faster than a one to 30 situation.

I think that schools are often too slow to put measures in place to help non attenders. They wait until the situation has got totally out of hand.

VertigoNun Sat 12-Mar-16 18:00:57

Yes education is very misigystic.

If it helps school refuser dd spent less than half her life in formal education. Took gcse English language early and got an A*.

School predicted D and in junior school she was treated as low IQ by teachers. Dd was never low IQ. I had a private ed psych Transactional analysis on and off tutor my children and she was unimpressed at school.

VertigoNun Sat 12-Mar-16 18:01:30

misogynistic

1805 Sat 12-Mar-16 22:12:31

wow. this is very interesting. dd is 10 (y6) and I think we are heading down this school refusal road.

irvine101 Sun 13-Mar-16 07:22:39

I really wonder why he is refusing to go to school? Is the work too hard or too easy? Is there bullying? Any crash of personality with teachers?

My nephew was a school refuser. There was lots of reasons, he wasn't interested in academic stuff, he was bullied, teacher was unhelpful.
His parents had different ideas. Mother(my sister) insisted he should move school. Father thought it was just not acceptable. They ended up divorcing, and my nephew went to the more arty, relaxed school in the end. He is now a happy late teenager pursuing his dream.

ReallyTired Sun 13-Mar-16 19:40:16

In the past my son has really enjoyed school, but I believe he either has depression or anxiety. Its a real fight to get him out of bed.

"My nephew was a school refuser. There was lots of reasons, he wasn't interested in academic stuff, he was bullied, teacher was unhelpful.
His parents had different ideas. Mother(my sister) insisted he should move school. Father thought it was just not acceptable. They ended up divorcing, and my nephew went to the more arty, relaxed school in the end. He is now a happy late teenager pursuing his dream."

The problem with changing school is that school refusal can happen at difficult points in a school career. Our other choice of secondary has children compress key stage 3 into 2 years and then spends 3 years preparing for GCSE. Ds school is more traditional and he still has much of key stage 3 work left. (Assuming he attends lessons! Dry laugh...)

Its also the devil you know or the devil you don't. My son does have friends and says he is not being bullied. He doesn't want to change schools. We have a friends who changed her daughter's school and her attendence got even worse. (Ie. down from 58% to 28%)

TeenAndTween Sun 13-Mar-16 21:49:18

You say you have a referral for an assessment for dyspraxia.

What 'symptoms' of dyspraxia are you seeing?

My (as it turned out, dyspraxic) DD found secondary harder to cope with the higher up she went, and this year has struggled more at 6th form college. I could imagine that a less resilient child, at a less supportive school, could have flipped and shut down and refused to go.

Things my DD finds difficult:
- crowds
- busyness
- keeping up with fast flowing teen conversation
- requirements of school work
- organisational requirements

At home I think I would require a certain level of study each day, at least in maths, probably science, reading, some essay writing and exercise. That way he is keeping up with key things and it will be easier to return.

What chance home educating successfully for a term? If you withdrew him it would get school / EWO off your back. (Not for the faint hearted at this level).

But if you don't know why he is refusing it is difficult to know what to do ...

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