In this blog post, we summarise a podcast hosted by the CEO of the National Extension College, Esther Chesterman, and Samreen Shah, Head of Ellern Meade School and expert in trauma-informed education. The podcast discusses the issue of school refusal, a topic that has become prevalent during the pandemic when schools shut for students. The podcast explores what school refusal is and what solutions are available, you can listen to the podcast in full via the player below, or by downloading it from NEC’s Podbean page.

The title school refusal is contentious as it implies that a child is choosing not to attend school, but it could be due to emotional and mental health issues. Organisations such as Young Minds have proposed alternative terms such as emotionally based school avoidance, anxiety-related absence, and barriers to attendance. The podcast delves into the complex factors that could lead to school refusal, such as social, familial, and individual factors.

The podcast also examines school refusal from different perspectives, including the child’s, the parents, and the teachers. Samreen, who works in a mental health setting in a school, notes that school refusal is common and can happen during transitions when children need to feel safe. Samreen notes that school refusal is usually a symptom of something else, such as struggling with the transition, change, or some other trauma.

Parents of children who refuse to attend school may feel a sense of failure, fear, and hopelessness. The fear stems from the possibility of being fined for their children’s absence, and the sense of failure from being unable to take their child to school. Parents may not notice the sudden onset of school refusal, such as slow preparation for school, and the child finding school work challenging.

Finally, the podcast offers solutions for school refusal, such as the involvement of mental health professionals, a multidisciplinary approach involving teachers, parents, and professionals, and the creation of, for example, a safe space in schools. The podcast notes that school refusal is a growing issue that needs attention and solutions.

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