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To ask what happens if you refuse to send your child to school-short term

(27 Posts)
Pickingrandomname Fri 22-Sep-17 18:12:02

Dd has some support needs right now, complex and distressing reasons. Before the holidays we were concerned that school (secondary) was falling short of handling it well so we made a plan.

If dd leaves class (she has a pass for this) she would have a safe place to sit and calm, or talk and discuss what's going on if needed. After a short while she would be asked if she felt any better. If not, she stays a bit longer and they try again. Then she'll either go to class or they will call us to possibly pick up or speak to her ourselves.

If it's that bad that she's in tears and asks to go home, they will call and we'll discuss it.

All agreed. We've come back and nothing has changed. I even emailed the school before term started to let them know dd was not "better" and we'd appreciate the same treatment as last term.

Dd had Monday off this week. She was sad, close to tears and couldn't drag herself out of bed. Today she didn't look like she was going to get up, but she did. Got dressed (albeit slowly) and I was relieved she clearly wasn't feeling good but wanted to give it a go. By 11 she was texting me, from outside the cp office as they were too busy to see her and she couldn't face going to class. She needed to talk to someone. Her phone was dying so I told her to go to the toilet, wash her face and freshen up, then go to the house office and see how she's feeling. If she needed to come home we would get her.

I called and spoke to the office. Explained she was in the toilets upset could someone check on her please, she's having a bad day. I call a couple of hrs later to see if she was ok. I was told she'd gone back to class and was fine. Later the same teacher called dh and told him dd had come out of class again to the house office and then been taken back to class.

Dd, distressed at the end of the day, tells it differently. That after my call the cp teacher found her and told the house office that she wasn't feeling good and wanted to go home. The teacher "gave a speech about staying in school then said he had a call to make" and that they would talk when he came back. But when he came back he said he'd walk her to class instead, and then did. She went to lunch then class and came out again soon after to house office to say she wanted to go home but was sent back to class. She says she went along with it because she doesn't want to be in trouble for saying no. She already asked to go home and if they didn't listen already, being rude wouldn't help.

Dh called the school and was told that nobody from the "management" (head, deputy, hoy, cp team) was on site. Dh asked them to pass on a short note about what happened today and that we would not send dd in until we've had a(nother) meeting about it. Are we "allowed" to do this? What happens next?

Bizzysocks Fri 22-Sep-17 21:51:10

I am sorry you are your DD if going through a hard time.

I have no knowledge on this so bumping for you.

Saying that i think I would speak to the gp, for a sick note to ensure you don't get an unorthorised (sp) absence fine. I assume you have already been to the gp for help? Getting help from CAMHs? or someone? Maybe an educational psychologist could advise how school can help her (although school will have to pay for this so they will be reluctant if they see it as a short term problem)

BBackt0w0rk Fri 22-Sep-17 22:09:21

If your child is not in school and will be at home who will be looking after her? I would encourage her to stay at school and make it clear that if she stays at home she will receive the same school work to do. I would engage all school and external resources for help ASAP. School should be a safe, secure place to be able to learn. The longer she is off school the more difficult it will be to return and will have implications for the future

DermotOLogical Fri 22-Sep-17 22:16:53

In my school it would be coded as unauthorised absence and dealt with accordingly. (as sensitively possible if the EWO was on your side and could see why you would keep your child off).

Otoh she has survived the day.

kuniloofdooksa Fri 22-Sep-17 22:20:23

It doesn't sound like this school cares about giving dd the support she needs.

Are there other schools that you could transfer her to?

Butterymuffin Fri 22-Sep-17 22:25:21

No knowledge either but I think Bizzy has got something with the sick note. I would self certify her as off sick for the moment and that gives you 7 days to try for a meeting with the school and also for her to see a GP with a view to a longer sick note as needed.

donquixotedelamancha Fri 22-Sep-17 22:41:34

"Are we "allowed" to do this? No.

"What happens next?" Ultimately, fines or prosecution; but that would depend wildly on the school or LA. Some issue fines in the first instance of truancy, most have specific thresholds.

More importantly: your daughter will receive the message that you don't support the school and it is likely to be increasingly hard for her to succeed in school.

Without knowing the issues affecting your DD it is impossible to suggest a course of action (no doubt there will be people along any minute with daft advice about how to fight the school or discipline the child- pointless when they don't know details).

On the face of it the teacher did exactly the right thing: a child can't miss class or go home because they are 'upset'. Given she actually went back in class, that was perhaps the best place for her.

In the case of short term traumas that result in a child being vulnerable, they can sometime be accommodated by a nearby teacher or perhaps in SEN provision, but schools can't (legally) have kids just out of class. The key is specific arrangements with a clear goal. The school system is pretty stretched at the mo and resources are limited.

Could you post some general details, to get a little more response? Why is she upset (without specifics)? How long will it last? How often is she wanting to go out of class? Where is she going and with whom?

donquixotedelamancha Fri 22-Sep-17 22:44:01

"It doesn't sound like this school cares about giving dd the support she needs. Are there other schools that you could transfer her to?"

Yep. Move her schools because they made her go to class. Good plan.

Frequency Fri 22-Sep-17 22:51:26

My daughter is going through similar. She misses a lot of school. We've tried CAHMs, Mind etc but she refuses all help. She won't talk to the GP, so he won't prescribe anti-depression meds or anxiety meds.

She has panic attacks regularly at school. Luckily, our educational welfare officer is great. When DD needs to, she can sit in her office and do her work there. We were told about 'hospital school' (that's not it's actual name). CAHMS can refer you to it. It's a classroom within the local hospital for kids with anxiety, depression or social issues. DD won't talk to CAHMS, so can't go to hospital school, but it might be worth checking if you have similar locally. Your educational welfare officer should know about it.

One thing I have found lately, is a website called The Mix, it's an online counselling site for young people. They can message someone for support. DD also refuses to use that because she is too anxious [sigh]

As far as school goes, I just try to get her in every day but on the days she's sobbing in bed, struggling to breathe or self harming, I don't kick up a massive fuss.

Good luck. I hope you get it sorted. Ignore the less helpful comments. I always read these threads thinking 'if my child ever refused school....' as you know, it's different when you're living it.

Floralnomad Fri 22-Sep-17 22:57:15

I feel your pain . Some schools just frankly don't seem able to or want to deal with children that don't just turn up and go to class but are not actually disruptive / naughty . When my dd was diagnosed with CFS in yr 7 the school put in all types of an action plan ( late starts / early finish / no walking to distant blocks ) and on paper it looked great except half the teachers either weren't on board or didn't want to play . In the end I just stopped sending her in the November of yr8 and just kept ringing and speaking to the EWO and head of house , eventually in January we finally got referred to the school for children who can't attend and got a tutor for about 18 months (6-8 hrs per week) . If I'd got too much grief I'd have just withdrawn her completely ( which we did eventually anyway) . It's ridiculous to say well if she went back to class then that's the best place for her because all it's telling her is that it's no point going in and trying because when something goes wrong she doesn't get the support she was promised . You can withdraw most children from school at anytime and then reapply at a later date if you feel an extended period out of school would be beneficial . There are lots of online schools she could access from home that run a proper timetable of lessons / homework and interaction with other children who are HE ( for lots of reasons) they are fairly reasonable to pay for.

Floralnomad Fri 22-Sep-17 23:05:06

frequency , absolutely agree there are some very narrow minded , unsympathetic people on here who honestly should stop spouting crap and try spending a couple of days in someone else's shoes . I couldn't give two hoots that my daughter knew exactly what I thought about the idiot PE teacher who thought that not doing PE because of CFS meant you should walk around the playing field for an hour . Also the school ( outstanding academy) didn't cover itself in any glory when for 3 terms after she stopped attending she got end of term reports saying she was making an excellent effort in most subjects and even got an achievement certificate sent through the post .

kgal Fri 22-Sep-17 23:09:02

My daughter went through similar in the last half of year 7. Had a couple of panic attacks and became a school refuser. As a pp said it is all too easy to think you know how you would deal with a child like this until it happens to your child. My dd was promised that she could go to the pastoral office for support and they would listen and give her time to sit quietly but in reality she was met with a blanket go back to lesson - that's where you need to be. As a result she decided it wasn't even worth trying to go to school as she wouldn't get the support she needed. It is very important that your dd feels that the support the school have promised will actually be followed through so that she can trust the staff and feel that school is a place where she can feel safe. We ended up doing half days for a while and built up from there. I hope you manage to find a workable solution for you and your dd.

yorkshapudding Fri 22-Sep-17 23:12:28

I'm sorry your DD is going through a tough time flowers

I'm a school counselor so see scenarios similar to what you describe all the time. I don't necessarily think the staff are wrong to encourage your DD into lessons. As a pp said, although she wasn't happy about it, she survived the day and it sounds as though they are trying to boost her resilience which is very important. When students start to avoid lessons due to feeling distressed or anxious it's often a slippery slope- I've seen it many times- they end up spending more and more time out of lessons, then they stop coming into school altogether, this can then quickly escalate to refusing to leave the house.
If your DD is allowed to go home every time she feels upset then not only will this impact on her education but it will also send the message that avoidance is an effective strategy for managing distress/anxiety- which it isn't. Avoidance may make her feel better in the short term, but it will keep the problem going in the long term as it will make it increasingly difficult for her to be in school. This is why Mental health professionals very rarely provide sick notes recommending children be off school. Even children and adolescents detained in inpatient units usually continue to attend some form of schooling- because routine, structure and meaningful activity are crucial to recovery. It becomes very difficult to ensure a child is getting these things when they start having a lot of time off school.

I think your DH's suggestion of a meeting is a good one as clearly there is a lot to discuss but I would think very carefully about refusing to send your DD in and the message this sends to her.

CardsforKittens Fri 22-Sep-17 23:22:32

My daughter went through some similar difficulties. Some of her teachers were great, but some were awful. We made up obscene unflattering songs about the awful ones. Things got a bit better when the school took the pressure off by giving her a very reduced timetable, but only after we supplied a letter from her doctor. She was lucky to have two or three very supportive friends. Her ASD diagnosis also helped because it gave her a reason why everything was so difficult.

If your daughter is too anxious to manage school at the moment, ideally she should have the support of her GP. Unfortunately there's very little support for teens these days, but forcing her to go to school when she's not coping simply won't help her. The school's response is hard to predict, but I'd take her to the doctor fairly regularly if I were you, and ask for every possible referral: paed, OT, CAHMS, psych, everything.

donquixotedelamancha Fri 22-Sep-17 23:34:03


"It's ridiculous to say well if she went back to class then that's the best place for her because all it's telling her is that it's no point going in and trying because when something goes wrong she doesn't get the support she was promised "

"frequency , absolutely agree there are some very narrow minded , unsympathetic people on here who honestly should stop spouting crap and try spending a couple of days in someone else's shoes ."

I'm assuming those comments are directed at me. I don't really see that it's unsympathetic or narrow minded to be factual and considered. Neither of us know anything about the OP's situation to be sympathetic about.

It's not ridiculous to say going to class might be appropriate- you have no idea why she's out or what the other provision is.

Given how quickly you seem to default to being rude, I'm sure the school looked forward to every phone call from you.

Frequency Fri 22-Sep-17 23:49:00

I'm assuming those comments are directed at me. I don't really see that it's unsympathetic or narrow minded to be factual and considered. Neither of us know anything about the OP's situation to be sympathetic about

My DD can survive a day at school. It's the effect on her MN and her surviving that which worries me.

Honestly, it's not as simple as you appear to believe. I get that it's hard to understand, as I said earlier, I always believed the same as you. Just send them to school. When you're facing it, it's different. Yeah, I can send DD to school and then she can come home and cut herself to cope with her anxiety.

There is no right answer. They miss school, they risk their entire future. You force them into school, you risk their entire future. As OP has many of the same things in place for her daughter as DD does, it's fairly clear to me that the DD in question has anxiety or is suffering bullying.

Eifla Sat 23-Sep-17 00:00:04

I suffered school phobia towards the end of year 10 - it is a genuinely recognised anxiety disorder, not just playing truant.

We saw many doctors, therapists, countless meetings with the school. My mum said she would keep me off until a plan could be put into place. It never was. I didn't go back to school after summer holidays into year 11.

I was off school for an entire year and the school/authorities honestly couldn't have cared less. It was like they weren't sure how to deal with the problem, so were happy for me to stay away hmm

Not saying it'll be like this for you of course, just that nothing at all happened towards us.

I went to college and got my GCSEs, never missed a day. The problem never resurfaced and hasn't since, in my working life. It was just retched secondary school that caused all the issues for me.

Pickingrandomname Sat 23-Sep-17 00:03:23

Thanks for the replies, bit of a mixed bag there.

To clear some things up, dd is 12, suffered major physical and emotional trauma and family upheaval. I didn't want to say exactly what as I've posted before and hate having to put warnings on posts. She loves school generally, but the inconsistent support is damaging. She was off monday and stayed in lessons Tuesday and Wednesday. Thursday she left one lesson and Friday she left two but for longer. It's not every day, she tries as best she can but when it's overwhelming she can't help it. She's not self harming so nobody is interested in helping her except for counselling.

She prefers to go the child protection office (they were involved from the start) as she feels more comfortable there, but otherwise she'll go to her house office. If both offices are busy she cries in the toilets... I have no idea how long it will last but I bet a whole lot longer if she has to keep battling to stay sane at school.

She did have a reduced timetable for a few weeks before the holidays and the school seemed to be under the impression that from this term she'd be able to jump back into full time just fine but it's not worked out that way. She's not handling things well emotionally, camhs said she wasn't in need enough for their threshholds over the summer, so we have sourced counselling elsewhere.

She was promised she could visit the child protection team or the house team (all of which know the situation), that she would be supported. A plan was made, jointly, and hasn't been followed. She made it through the day because she had no other choice, but was it productive? No. Did she get all her work done? No. Was it good for her emotional state to be turned away by the people we leave in charge, to act on our behalf, when she needed compassion? No.

She went to class when escorted because she's not "naughty" not a trouble maker, just a troubled child. They tell her to do something and she doesn't answer back, that doesn't mean she's ok that means she's given up. I've lost count of how many "concerns" she's had since going back this term for not completing work or not paying attention, forgetting books in her locker. Was never like this before. She needs help, not sending back to class, and if they can't provide it I don't know what else to do but keep her home until we can agree something which works all round, and stick to it.

She was texting me today for help. I thought they were going to help. I know she needs to be in school but I need to know she is being properly cared for. It's not about school stress, it's having so much horrible-ness in her head that she can't concentrate. It's less about the message I'm sending and more about the school making me and dh out as liars - "yes dd go to school, it will be fine. And if not, remember we all agreed you could have time out and someone to talk to." It's making her distrusting of them also.

Those who have had similar, it's tough isn't you really don't know what you'd do until it's your child suffering. It's all well and good saying school goes on, it's law, they have to go, but sometimes things happen and kids, people, just cannot cope. I've had days I've had to leave work over it, and I'm an adult!

Pickingrandomname Sat 23-Sep-17 00:06:38

frequency flowers I don't know what else to to you and your dd. And hugs. It's hard. I see where you're coming from.

CardsforKittens Sat 23-Sep-17 00:31:03

It's awful. She's obviously trying very hard to manage everything but not getting enough support because she's quite compliant, which seems to be read as 'coping ok'. And it's not coping ok, it's deferring the consequences of trying to cope ok without adequate support.

Yes, school is important. Yes, kids should go. But only if they're well enough, and maybe sometimes she isn't well enough to be there. What are the potential consequences if she misses lessons? She might fall behind. She can still catch up. What are the consequences if attempts to encourage her 'resilience' lead to school refusal? She will fall behind. She can still catch up. In my unscientific, anecdotal and intensely personal experience the second avenue prolongs the catching up because the root causes of non-attendance take longer to work through.

You know your daughter. What are your instincts?

bridgetreilly Sat 23-Sep-17 00:42:15

I think you could keep her at home until you are able to arrange a meeting with the headteacher. Ideally that would happen on Monday, but you may have to wait a day or two. I would not agree to a meeting with the people lower down the management scale, since they are the ones who are failing to stick to the previous arrangement. See the head. Explain that the system you had all agreed to was there for a reason, and that it is not okay for your daughter to be treated differently from that without your express permission. Tell them that if the school cannot guarantee to keep their commitments to you and your daughter, you anticipate a worsening of the situation to the point of complete school refusal. Explain that you have sourced counselling out of school and that you are working towards improving things but that your daughter has been through significant upheaval and you do not expect things to suddenly become fine again very quickly. You need the school to partner with you, not work against you.

But do make it clear to your daughter that she's allowed to stay at home only until you've had that meeting to guarantee the arrangements for her at school. This isn't the beginning of anything else.

Floralnomad Sat 23-Sep-17 09:59:37

donquixote , I don't think I was rude at all actually and the OP said in her OP that her dd needed support for 'distressing and complex reasons' , so I simply chose to believe her rather than assume she was a mother pandering to a child . I tried extremely hard to keep my own dd in school under ridiculous circumstances mainly because most people either don't understand or don't want to understand CFS . It's ongoing , I turned from the parent of a sporty , independent child into a full time carer , which I pretty much still am 6/7 yrs later and I'm sorry if people don't like it but her treatment by some teachers and members of school staff right at the start of her illness did not help her.

youarenotkiddingme Sat 23-Sep-17 10:33:14

I had experience of this with ds.

He had a time out facility but after being told by teachers he was fine and couldn't use it he wouldnt try.

Any addressing it with school was met with "well he has a time out card"

Having a facility set up and being able to use it or it working are two different things.

In the end ds refused to attend school as he was terrified. He'd already seen Camhs and referred to CBT as he has school related anxiety.

We arranged a managed move to a school who's pastoral care is much better. He's not had a day off since and that was a year ago!

I would also keep her off. Don't be pressured by unauthorised absences or threats of ewo.

Instead be clear in your paper trail and clear in what DD needs and why the cite t arrangements aren't working. Avoid the he said she said type of emails and stick to facts and bullet points.
Also ask school what external agencies they have got involved as they aren't able to meet her needs to keep her in school - asking specifics makes it harder for them to avoid doing anything and also harder for them to write a whole spiel about what they are doing.

Pickingrandomname Sat 23-Sep-17 21:23:12

bridgetreilly your post is actually everything in a nutshell. Dd wants to be at school, she just wants to know that when she needs support, it's there. So far we've only let her stay home when she's genuinely looked thoroughly depressed, which has only been a very small handfull of days since the start of May.

We have told her she will stay off until we have a meeting but I'm hoping it will be early this week, I don't want it to drag on, I'm not a sahp so it's not a light decision or the easy option by any means.

That worries me Cards, that trying to stuff it down instead of working through it will make it take a lot longer and be a much harder experience. This weekend she's asked if a different school would handle it differently but I'm not encouraging that conversation yet.

Floral CFS has such a stigma even in adults, I can't imagine trying to manage it and find support for a child. flowers

youarenotkiddingme that's very true, dd has a card too, for what it's worth. Having it and be able to use are definitely not one and the same.

We're going to ask for an agreement in writing (we just talked about it last time). I think, from knowing dd and seeing a pattern, what may help would be a reduced timetable again, with work to be done at home where possible. Over the weekends and in the holidays she was mostly "ok" but I suspect it's that point of sitting there in the quiet, concentrating on something by yourself that's when the thoughts or sadness creep into dd and she finds it overwhelming. Unfortunately it's a lot of lessons that require that type of working but it's not every lesson where it happens, so possibly cutting lessons down will break it up a bit.

I know the school is there to teach, not sit there and hold her hand and have a cosy chat with a cuppa but it's difficult.

youarenotkiddingme Sat 23-Sep-17 21:32:23

How about suggesting a plan that's of a longer term outlook? It may help school to get inside with seeing DD and you want her in school - but she just can't manage it ATM.

So start with first hour of the day for a week and then home.
2 hours next week and 3 the next.
Then in school FT but only attending core subjects and perhaps 1/2 others she really enjoys such as an art or PE. The rest of the time she can go to an agreed base to work or have some support.

When ds saw the psychologist he said that when you've experienced a trauma you get into the conflict spiral/cycle of your experiences drive your feelings that drive your behaviours. So DD's experience is driving her feelings right now - when they drive her feelings if she can't do something to control that it'll drive her behaviour.
To be able to control her feelings after her experience she needs lots and lots of repeated positive experiences and feeling able to control those feelings.
The going to class because she doesn't want to be naughty puts her right back at that loss of control over her feelings iyswim?

Your DD needs to learn again that she can manage her feelings and she can have positive experiences - for that to happen she needs the control and that's what the school need to accept and understand.

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