My child cannot attend school
Is your child struggling to attend school and engage in education? Are they in fact not attending at all?
Perhaps you drive them to school and they won’t get out of the car. Maybe they won’t even get dressed or leave their bedroom. You are probably feeling very anxious yourself.
Your child or young person may well have anxieties and difficulties as a result of their SEN that are preventing them from attending. They may be experiencing extreme anxiety related perhaps to school, the environment, or something that is happening at school, and this makes it impossible for them to be able to go.
School Admissions departments and the LA may not understand that this is SEN-related, rather than just a desire to stay at home. Parents become distressed when receiving demands that their child goes into school.
Emotional or anxiety-based school avoidance is a special educational need, and without support, the child or young person risks longer term school refusal that may impact their opportunities.
- If your child is able to explain, ask them what is worrying them. Are they able to tell you what is difficult at school?
- Talk to the school, make them aware of what is happening, and why (if you know), and discuss any reasonable changes that could be made to improve the situation for the child or young person if possible.
- Do they have a school counsellor or educational psychologist that you can speak to in order to understand more about how your child can be supported emotionally and educationally?
- Contact your GP to make them aware. If they feel that the child or young person cannot attend school, ask them to put their views in writing so that you have the necessary evidence for the LA to explain your child’s non attendance.
- If the child or young person is not already under the care of CAMHS, they should be referred to CAMHS so that their needs are professionally identified and understood.
- If you already have an EHCP, you may need to call an emergency review to discuss what is happening. It may be that the EHCP needs to change to reflect what is happening, and that support is needed to help meet these needs.
- If you have an EHCP, consider whether EOTAS (Education Otherwise Than At School) is an appropriate option.
- If your child has a diagnosis of anxiety or known emotional or mental health difficulties, ask a medical professional supporting your child to put this in writing to explain why your child’s difficulties might impact their attending school.
- If you do not have an EHCP already, it may be necessary to apply for a needs assessment if their needs are preventing them from accessing education.
Threats of prosecution?
- If the school, or the LA, has given you the impression or stated that it intends to prosecute for not attending school, it may be that they do not appreciate that the non attendance relates to SEN, and in particular anxiety and their mental health.
- Send in any documentation you have. Explain that needs are not being met and that a meeting is required urgently to discuss what provision is required to support these needs, rather than threatening to prosecute which would be unfair, and punitive action against a child or young person for behaviours that they are unable to control.