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School refusal. What to do?

(29 Posts)
Victra Wed 15-Jan-20 17:09:52

Ds15 has not been to school since before Christmas and I don’t know what to do. I have no one in real life to talk to apart from the school and of course they just want him in.

He’s never enjoyed school and his attendance in high school has always been a problem but since September he’s been suffering with bad anxiety and says he has forced himself to go for so long and just can’t do it anymore.

I separated from his abusive Dad end of September so I’m sure that is playing a part, even though he says it’s not that. He wants nothing to do with his Dad and is happy we left. Maybe it’s just the fact that he can finally be open and honest about how he’s feeling without fear of his Dad’s reaction.

The Gp has referred him to CAMHS but it’s a long wait apparently and the school have put him down for counselling but he has to be going to school.

He likes his subjects, has lots of friends, no bullying issues and despite the fact that his attendance is so low he’s still doing really well. It’s just actually being at school that is making him so ill.

The school have given him a part time timetable but he still panics, doesn’t sleep, he’s crying and just won’t go. I can’t force him in but I’m so worried about what he’s missing.

I’ve looked into internet schools but they are just too expensive and I couldn’t home school him myself.

I’m on my own with no help or support and I’m not coping very well with this. I Don’t know what other options there are or if we just need to wait for camhs appointment.

OP’s posts: |
Dodgeitornot Wed 15-Jan-20 17:15:23

I would advise you to go to your GP. Explain that he is waiting for CAMHS and due to mental health problems he isn't able to go in. If they sign him off sick the local authority have a duty to provide him with at home tuition as he has already missed so much.

BubblesBuddy Wed 15-Jan-20 17:36:23

Could he be persuaded to see the head of pastoral care at school. Clearly the school isn’t making much effort to help. Given the circumstances he is a vulnerable child and should be receiving far more help than this. Perhaps negotiate a reintroduction to part time schooling. Could he go to another school? Your DS isn’t best placed to make his own rational decisions the moment and he needs help to steer him through this current situation. What would make him like school?

He has friends and that’s a great start. Does he still see them? Could they encourage him to go back? I would see the SLT member in charge of attendance and take this further, quickly. Would he go to a Pru?

Victra Wed 15-Jan-20 18:05:32

The gp wouldn't sign him off, she reluctantly referred him to camhs but just advised him to get counselling at school because camhs appointmaent would take forever. The school said that once he has a camhs appointment his absences will be authorised

OP’s posts: |
Victra Wed 15-Jan-20 18:09:42

He can't say why he doesn't like school, it's just the anxiety is making it unbearable. We've seen head of pastoral and she has sorted a part time timetable on the agreement that he is full time by half term, which he agreed to but when it comes to actually going in he can't do it and I can't force him.
They said that he has to be a lot more unwell for any option of home learning so he really just needs to go in.

OP’s posts: |
FourDecades Wed 15-Jan-20 18:14:28

Home schooling doesn't have to be done by yourself. There are home education study groups and tutors

CustardT Wed 15-Jan-20 18:16:18

Why can’t you homeschool?

Ionacat Wed 15-Jan-20 18:27:22

Firstly, I would hassle the GP and CAMHS to see if you can get up the waiting list.
Ask the school for some work to be sent home for your DS. The longer he is off school, the more behind he gets and then anxiety gets worse so some work to do at home might help.
If he is not seeing his friends, try to get his friends to drop in and see him and encourage him to meet up with them so he doesn’t get isolated.
Ask for a meeting at the school and this ideally needs to be with your DS, if he really won’t go - talk to him beforehand. What adjustments could they make to get him in through the door? Is there somewhere quiet he could sit and get on with work that has been set rather than go to lessons? Is there a teacher he trusts? At least then he could access the counselling. Small steps an hour a day in the building at least to arrange to meet a member of staff and collect and drop off work. Increase in small steps so that he starts spending say an hour somewhere quiet working which can gradually increase.
Is there an incentive he’d like if he focuses on a reintegration programme however slow?
I’ve had school refusers in my tutor group just come and sit in my office and get on with work and teachers would drop in to go through work, friends would drop in and gradually they’d decide to go back to class although still come back if it is too much.
Also mindfulness - headspace or look at some of the other apps.
Hope you get some help for him soon.

KoalasandRabbit Wed 15-Jan-20 19:54:03

There's normally very long waiting lists for CAHMS, worth being on list but wouldn't rely on it.

Another route to getting help for you as a family - and given the timing would suspect family issues are bothering him as well as school - is to get school or go direct yourself to Early Help. They can get you a Family Support Worker or a Youth worker, the first helps the family, second would be just for him to chat to. It is voluntary.

I would keep talking to him to try and establish what issue is, my DS has refused school in the past (he's ASD and quite common with that) and often there's a problem at school when he does it. But can also be there's something a child wants to stay home for too, like he feels by staying home he's protecting you. Needs a professional assessment.

Is the senco involved? You don't need any educational ability difficulties for that, just problems accessing education of which school refusal is one. My son had a part-time timetable and that can help. Hope things get better for you and you can get some support.

KoalasandRabbit Wed 15-Jan-20 19:56:44

I've also found the local authority SEND team quite helpful - they got an Ed Pscyh in to assess my DS and then a support plan was established.

Victra Wed 15-Jan-20 20:14:33

I didn't think I was clever enough to homeschool but I had no idea about home study groups so that may be worth looking into down the line if he can't get the support from school

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eggofmantumbi Wed 15-Jan-20 20:17:59

Depends on your school circumstances, but we've had a student educated off-site at the local library before, with a view so reintroduction to school when/ if possible.
Perhaps something to suggest?

Sharpandshineyteeth Wed 15-Jan-20 20:21:06

I worked with school refusers. Our strategy was to make home life as boring as possible. So no WiFi, TV or electronics until he has at least tried school. Even if that means sitting in the pastoral office, start with one hour, then he gets rewarded at home, then two hours, then maybe joining a small group. I would ask for all of this from pastoral. If he hasn’t been since Xmas he will find it very hard walking back into a classroom. It needs to be gradual. Even a part time timetable isn’t gradual. He needs to get used to getting back on school grounds again. Take him along to all meetings you have. Is he familiar with pastoral? Get him familiar with a key teacher who knows his difficulties

Victra Wed 15-Jan-20 20:28:25

Thanks for taking the time with your replies. The school have suggested that he can sit quietly somewhere away from class to do his work and have said that just going in for one lesson a day is better than nothing. But when it actually comes to him going in he panics and can't go.
The school won't send work home unless he goes in to get it.

He has been through a lot in the last few months and I have had contact with Early Help so will see what support they can offer as he obviously needs more than I can give him at the moment.

Tonight he has asked if I can drop him to school for his first lesson tomorrow so I'm hoping I can get him to go through with that. Or at least get him to collect some work.

OP’s posts: |
BubblesBuddy Thu 16-Jan-20 08:11:49

Let us know how that goes op. Good luck.

keyboardwarrior1 Thu 16-Jan-20 09:20:43

Good that he is trying to get in again. I hope it works out.

If he does relapse, do not - under any circumstances - agree to home school. This is the worst option for your DS. Keep up the pressure on school and GP to address his underlying MH issues. Make sure all your interactions are in writing so you have a paper trail.

The school will go through the motions. Once they have completed the box tick exercise they will threaten to prosecute you. They will then tell you you can avoid this by agreeing to home school. At this stage they will wash their hands of your DS with a huge sigh of relief that he will not impact on their performance stats. Your DS will be left to his own devices and will sink further into depression. He will join a hidden army of vulnerable children in similar circumstances. The LA will go through the motions of checking he is receiving an education but that is all they will do. You will get some kind of follow up from a separate team when he turns 16 and they will try to get him to go to college. But as his MH will have worsened by being left alone at home he is unlikely to make this transition successfully.

There are lots of options still available. Could he be taught within a smaller unit inside his current school? Are there any small, special units around, off site, which cater for DC with MH problems? Is there a smaller school nearby? A managed move is a possibility.

Do not believe that the school has your DS’ best interests at heart.

Victra Thu 16-Jan-20 14:30:50

Ds went in to school for a double lesson this morning, had break with his friends and then left which is a start. He looked pale when I collected him but was ok. We'll just take it day by day.

OP’s posts: |
Victra Thu 16-Jan-20 14:37:09

@keyboardwarrior1 that's a scary thought and the last thing I want is for the school to give up on him.

It was me who mentioned homeschooling in a meeting last week but the pastoral lead said she didn't think it would suit Ds at all and that she'd worry about him becoming isolated.

They are being very accommodating at the moment but he obviously can't be part time forever.

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Topttumps Thu 16-Jan-20 14:42:18

You have my sympathy op. My ds has anxiety and is a school refuser too. We are at the assessment stage for CAHMS and the school have now started marking his absences as unauthorised. I have requested medical evidence of the referral which I hope will overrule this.
I always felt my mental health was robust but this is breaking me.
My ds has now been in school for 3 short days this week so I hope this is a breakthrough.
Good luck op.

Victra Fri 17-Jan-20 09:25:29

@Topttumps I know what you mean. My mental health is pretty poor at the moment. After ending my marriage and then losing our home, this feels like the final straw. I'm not coping very well at all.

After ds going in yesterday for a couple hours I got my hopes up but he's not able to go in again today.

I suppose it's now just taking it day by day and waiting for referrals.

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Topttumps Fri 17-Jan-20 10:25:48

I really feel for you and I hope things get better soon. You are under so much pressure.

clevud Sat 18-Jan-20 10:20:47

Please leave out homeschooling. Many countries forbid it and rightly so. Each of your teachers are highly qualified expert in teaching and their subject. They studied years, got degrees and taught for years, learning teaching methodologies and how to deal with different children. Now that a parent can think they have the knowledge and ability to offer all that to their child through homeschooling is preposterous. Moreover your child will be severed from his peers and the support he needs most.

Alicenwonderland Sat 18-Jan-20 10:39:21

Firstly well done on leaving your abusive husband, that takes real courage. Are you getting support after your separation? I had support from women's aid and they were amazing, I completed the recovery tool kit which was really helpful. They also run a course for children which may help your son. As you say, I'm sure it's effected him, it takes time to process. I didn't fully process what had happened until a year after the split, I'd been running on adrenaline since I think, then I crashed. Secondly it sounds as if the school is supportive with your son and his anxiety and attendance which is great. Don't hold out too much hope for CAHMS. My son is 16, has ASD/ADHD and emotional deregulation, goes to a special needs school and they wouldn't help him! He has extreme anxiety and a history of school refusal (8 months out of education in year 7). We are back on the waiting list again as he's refusing school again and has now been out for a couple of months. School are working with me and have said I won't be fined (this was threatened last year so I rang the local authorities and went mad!) but I'm worried. We are GCSE year and this is the main cause of the problems I think as my son refuses to sit tests and exams. There is medication for anxiety but this would need to be given via CAHMS I think. My G.P has prescribed a mild sedative to help my son sleep but that's all we've got so far. Have you tried your local SENDIASS? They help support schools and pupils/parents in this situation.

Victra Sun 19-Jan-20 09:42:37

Thanks. I don't really have any support in real life but I'm starting the freedom programme soon, so that may help.

The gp said we'll be waiting months for camhs but the school said they can offer more help once we have a referral. They are offering lots of options but unless I can actually get ds in, he's not getting anything from them. He really wants to learn and is not worried about exams, it's just actually being in school he can't handle.

I feel like I can relax a little at the weekend but I'm already dreading what will happen tomorrow, whether I can get him in or not.

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Girlattheback Sun 19-Jan-20 18:30:21

I’m so sorry, this must be incredibly hard for you. Just wondering whether your DS is generally healthy and active outside of school?

Does he mention feeling un-well? It’s just that sometimes what seems like anxiety and school refusal on the surface might have an underlying medical cause.

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