School refusal, sometimes known as school phobia or emotionally based school avoidance and is normally defined by off the scale anxiety, and it can occur from any amount of underlying problems including bullying, or an undiagnosed, unsupported Special Educational Need or Disability, or a mental health problem.
Whilst the underlying problem can exhibit significant difficulties in itself, the resulting school refusal leaves families in crisis, and a new holding code would start to measure the scale of the developing dilemma.
It would ensure a steady strategy across all schools, aid children until their problems could be addressed and ease families from the threat of prosecution for unlawful absences.
The decision to approve absenteeism rests with specific schools who are ruled by legal responsibilities, attendance targets and Ofsted goals as well as the pupil’s wellbeing, but none of the current 23 attendance regulations allows for a holding stage while the problem of school refusal is investigated and suitable help rendered.
Without medical evidence that a child is unfit for school, absence is consequently usually unauthorised and classified as truancy, which is a prosecutable crime, and budget cuts, increased testing, delays in , higher thresholds for mental health support and challenges securing and achieving Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs), which succeeded the earlier Statement of Educational Need, are all compounding the dilemma.
Whilst there’s no reliable evidence on school refusal at present, the growth in homeschooling, prosecutions and permanent exclusions are all pointers of a significant problem, and a national Facebook group, Not Fine in School (NFIS) which started in November 1917 presently has over 4,800 members (February 2019) and has increased to the rate of 350-400 new members every month.
The completion of an NFIS poll which appeared in March 2018 and was completed by 1,661 families revealed that 92 per cent of parents believed that their child’s school attendance problems were related to undiagnosed or unsupported Special Educational Need or Disability.
Despite this, 20 per cent had been told not to pursue asking for an Education Health and Care plan (EHCP) and a further 20 per cent didn’t even know what an EHCP was.
55 per cent of parents were blamed for their child’s attendance problems and 25 per cent of parents were reported to Social Services because of their child’s bad attendance.
18.4 per cent of parents had been accused of manufacturing or influencing their child’s illness, further known as FII or Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, and 67 per cent had been put under pressure to force their child into school, yet 59 per cent said this had made the situation worse.
A new attendance code is only part of the narrative and must be backed by extensive examination, thriving school refusal response plans and national supervision because it’s a daily fight to get a child to school with so much anxiety going on, and simply watching a child make themselves sick so that people can tick boxes is so evil, and at what time are people going to sit up and accept that it’s not the parents failing.
And parents of school refusers are being punished for their child’s anxiety problems and undiagnosed Pathological Demand Avoidance, but are being given warning letters about unlawful absences, yet parents have their own problems to deal with without the intimidation of being penalised or imprisoned.
People are signing the petition because until the stats reveal how great the problem is, there will be no incentive to do anything to help these children and parents, and those children who refuse to go to school due to anxiety bought on by many years of schools not meeting their needs, are separated from their peers and handled like dangerous animals.
This is why there are numerous parents that are now homeschooling their children because the school system has failed to identify or document that failure, and everything must change.