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Refusing to go to school

School refusal can be really stressful for parents to deal with.

You can sometimes feel that you are powerless, or in a ‘catch 22’ between your child’s wellbeing and the legal duties on you and school.

Schools have a legal duty to safeguard the children on their roll, and all children have a right to a full-time, suitable education. If a school can’t account for a student, it becomes a safeguarding concern for them and, as a parent or carer, you also have a duty to ensure your child attends school.

Schools are doing their duty when they make sure you are doing all you can to get your child into school.

In order to work with school, it would be helpful for you to log all attempts to get your child to school, and what happened if they were not able to attend. You should keep in regular contact with the school and be open with them about the difficulties you and your child are dealing with.

When a child has been refusing to attend school and their behaviour and/or anxiety appears to be worsening, it is important to seek help as soon as possible.

Speak to your GP or another medical or mental health professional

As a first step, you should take your child to your GP and explain what has been happening.

If the GP (or any medical or mental health professional) feels that the child is not currently fit to attend school, ask for a letter to the Council to be provided, explaining this. Evidence of this type would provide a documented explanation for the child’s non-attendance.

You can ask your GP to refer your child to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (known as CAMHS), although thresholds for accessing this service are often high.

Support from an Education Welfare Officer

If the school feels it would help, they can ask for an Education Welfare Officer (EWO) to get involved.

This can be positive, and you can talk to the EWO about suggestions that may help support your child.

EWO involvement does not mean you will immediately get fined or be in trouble.

Some academies also have their own internal EWOs and attendance officers – they can try to help too, but please note that only a Bromley Council EWO has the power to seek penalty action, such as fines.