Helping a child with school refusal

Since 2011, we at Academy 21 have witnessed first-hand a dramatic increase in the number of young people suffering from school related anxiety. As a result, students across England and Wales are refusing to attend their mainstream secondary school. When a child is anxious about school, it can be difficult to resolve, putting pressure on family settings and care placements. Alongside these stresses is the task of finding and securing the help your child needs, which at times can leave you feeling as though you have nowhere to turn. There could be an underlying problem at the root of your child’s anxiety, caused by fear over schoolwork, relationships, bullying or something much more complex. School avoidance anxiety is often also accompanied by physical complaints, such as headaches, behavioural issues and begging to stay at home.


It is important to deal with your child’s anxiety about school early on by seeking professional help, such as counselling. Although, accessing these local services can prove difficult as the increasing need for counselling in England and Wales has coincided with a long period of budget constraints and subsequent service cutbacks. Talking with your child and their teachers will help to reassure them that you are listening and that you are trying your utmost to find a solution for their individual needs. In cases where an ideal solution cannot be found, escalation can be problematic. However, there are services available to help ensure your child’s education does not continue to be interrupted. These services can provide a solution to a child’s anxiety, helping them to achieve good GCSE results and laying a strong foundation for further education and employment. Academy21 is one of these alternative solutions.

Bullying and school refusal

If you believe your child's anxiety and school attendance issues are due to bullying, it is important to check through the school’s anti-bullying policy. Some forms of bullying, such as violence, theft, threats, abusive messages and hate crimes are illegal and should also be reported to the police. For full information on bullying and the law you can visit: https://www.gov.uk/bullying-at-school

Anxiety and depression are often closely linked and both can lead to social anxiety and school refusal. Childhood depression can be caused by many things. It could be related to their time at school, social relationships or something traumatic that has happened outside of school.

There are a number of warning signs of depression in children and it is worth visiting the NHS page ‘Depression in children and teenagers’. If you believe your child is depressed, make an appointment with them to see your GP.

What happens if my child keeps refusing to go to school?

If your child continues to refuses to go to school for long periods of time, you are at risk of being fined, taken to court, or having your child excluded from school. This is why it is important to move quickly when you suspect something is wrong. Speaking to the school and then services at your local authority (such as CAMHS) swiftly is imperative.

What is alternative provision?

By law, pupils who are unable to attend mainstream school, for reasons including school refusal, are entitled to high-quality alternative learning provision. Your local authority or school will be responsible for finding and securing the most appropriate alternative provision to meet your child’s needs and ensure they have access to a suitable education provider.

Online alternative provision with Academy21 – How could it help?

Academy21 work with schools and local authorities to provide online alternative provision to learners who are unable to attend mainstream school. Online alternative provision allows learners to receive quality education from their own homes, or a classroom set up in a local school or learning centre. This provides a safe environment for anxious learners, giving them full control of how they communicate with their teachers and peers.

01
Continuity of Provision

Each lesson is recorded and stored in an online archive to ensure that missed lessons do not create further gaps in learning and heighten feelings of anxiety.

02
Live classrooms

Education is delivered online in real-time lessons with qualified, experienced teachers. Every lesson we teach across all subjects follows the same structure. Similarly, the pupil’s timetable provides lesson times at the same period each day and with the same Academy21 teacher.

03
Small groups

Learning is delivered to a maximum group size of 15 and we have lessons across the day to allow us to initially place anxious learners into smaller groups if required.

04
Experienced Teachers

Our teachers have worked in mainstream schools and have a broad experience of working with vulnerable young people and learners with complex needs. We communicate with our clients from the outset to ensure strategies for learning are employed, recognising individual needs and promoting engagement and self-confidence.

05
Access from Anywhere

A suitable learning environment where anxious pupils feel safe and secure is key. Our classes can be attended from anywhere with a suitable broadband connection and computer.

06
Safe & Secure Environment

Learners are in control of how and when they communicate within the classroom, with their peers and with their teachers. We do not use web cams or ‘pressure’ learners to use their microphone in class. For anxious learners, this provides a degree of control over their classroom environment that they cannot achieve in a mainstream setting.

Why choose online learning with Academy21 for your child?

Online education gives learners the freedom to choose how they communicate with other students and the teacher. It takes them away from things that may have triggered their anxiety and provides a safe space to learn. Our timetable is designed to ensure that young people work within the same peer group and crucially, with the same teachers, enabling staff to build trust and respond consistently to individual behaviour.

"Rose is getting so much from these lessons and enjoying it too.”

Rose is getting so much from these lessons and enjoying it too. Laura, her teacher, is so upbeat, fun and engaging. Rose looks forward to her lessons, and for me this is so important.

Find Out More About Online Learning with Academy21

Click on the link below to explore how we can help you and the learners in your care, achieve a range of recognised outcomes.

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