Sometimes a child’s anxiety prevents attendance at school – and this is sometimes referred to as ‘school-refusal’.
Here are a few commonly used support strategies to help with anxiety about school:
- asking your child to tell you what would need to change for them to feel happier about school – this can help identify specific worries
- help to understand and manage their feelings and emotions
- meet and greet by a trusted member of staff at the start (sometimes during or at the end) of the day
- adult-led approaches – checking in with a child that they are okay
- positive praise (for getting through a lesson – instead of sanctions for challenging behaviour)
- time-out card for when a child feels overwhelmed in lessons
- lesson breaks (to allow some calm down time)
- changes to timetable if particular lessons a trigger
- allowing a child to learn away from the classroom, in a dedicated area or room sometimes known as a ‘safe space’
- lunching away from the dinner hall, ask whether any lunchtime clubs available. (crowded dinner halls can cause anxiety)
- 1:1 or small group interventions, support programmes and friendship groups
- leaving lessons or school 5 minutes early to avoid crowded corridors
- school counselling
You can speak to a school nurse or your child’s GP for advice, recommendations or a possible referral to specialist services. Share this information with school so they have the full picture, and you can discuss next steps together.
Talk to school about whether there are other options, for example…
This term is used to describe the education arrangements made for excluded pupils to continue to have a suitable, full-time education whilst they are excluded from school or cannot attend school for another reason.
In some circumstances, alternative provision can be used where a child has not been excluded, including alongside mainstream or special education, where there are medical needs.
Read the government guidance around Alternative Provision (PDF)
You can contact the local authority directly with any questions or concerns about alternative provision.
The Suffolk County Council Inclusion Service & how to contact them.
Take a look at this online directory of alternative provision (PDF) (via the Suffolk local offer).
Emotional Wellbeing Gateway(access advice and support if you are worried about your child’s mental health)
Developing effective support systems for young people experiencing anxiety based school avoidance
Unity Research School – Blog about helping children to be fine in school
Young Minds guide to school-refusal
Young Mings guide to Anxiety