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Non Attendance at school

(35 Posts)
purplehead Tue 05-Jul-22 08:44:00

My 13 year old grandson is often having days off school saying he has a headache / stomach ache or something else - not always true
My daughter has spoken to his head of year and has been told not to worry too much about this as he is at an awkward age with hormones and having missed lots of school time due to the pandemic
When she thinks he is not really ill she takes away his and cancels any treats he is due to have but says that he just accepts this
He has lots of friends at school and she doesn't think anything is going on (like bullying) that would upset him
She has told me she can't physically force him to go but is at a loss to know how to deal with this
Any advice would be appreciated

Grandmabatty Tue 05-Jul-22 09:01:08

Has your daughter asked him what's going on? I think the teacher is reassuring as often young teenagers push against boundaries and attending school is one. It's probably a phase. The feeling of having the house to himself too might be enjoyable. I think she might make it as boring as possible. If she's at work, then enlist you to sit with him at his house or yours. No computer, phone or TV on. It's good she's keeping an eye on it. If it ramps up, tell him she's taking him to the doctor as he's obviously unwell.

M0nica Tue 05-Jul-22 09:08:56

I think his teacher is very wise and gave good advice. It might help if he could see a councillor or the school psychological service

My DGS, much the age of your DGS has been having similar problems, again he is bright and very sociable. he goes to a fairly 'straight' school that has routines and rules that govern the children, and in this case it is this DGS is struggling with. He keeps forgetting things and is constantly worrying about this.

Thankfully, we think we know what the problem is. Neuro diversity runs in our family. I have dyspraxia and ADHD, DS has dyspraxia and ADD and we now think that DGS has ADHD. Not the extreme kind that has children unable to learn and bouncing off the walls, but one of this syndromes main symptoms, is difficulty with doing or keeping things in order or doing things to a routine.

We have spoken to the school who have referred him for assessment and have eased up in constantly pulling him up for not doing or not following school routines.

Shelflife Tue 05-Jul-22 09:14:01

Parents often think they know their children very well - in my experience that is not always the case. I think his head of year is being rather dismissive. Your GS is happy to have his privilages removed , it is a price he is prepared to pay in order to miss school - that is a worry. Perhaps your daughter could ask him to sit with her then be direct " I know you are unhappy and want you to tell me why that is" If he is anxious about something then he may well be relieved to be given the opportunity to offload. On the other hand he may say nothing , but at least the door is open and he will know that. Either be way there is nothing lost. He may of course just rather be at home than school!! In your daughters situation I would seek professional support if missing school continues. If there is an underlying concern then it can be addressed and not getting to the bottom of it will only serve to make things worse. I wish you all the best.

Mandrake Tue 05-Jul-22 09:19:11

Has he actually had a medical work up? There could be something medically wrong. This should be ruled out before assuming it must be psychological.

Mollygo Tue 05-Jul-22 09:24:17

It’s always worrying when children refuse school and it’s often a problem exacerbated by frequent absences, because children know they’ve missed learning which may be difficult to catch up.
Perhaps worth your daughter looking at this information on EBSA (Emotionally Based School Avoidance)
There’s a big push for schools to look at this especially following the pandemic.
I hope the you find some support for this problem.

eazybee Tue 05-Jul-22 09:25:46

I agree: I am surprised at the Head of Year's attitude, particularly him citing having missed so much time during the pandemic as an excuse. The boy's mother has checked out the possible causes: illness, anxiety and bullying so it sounds as though her son may simply be lazy, and this will develop into school refusal if allowed to continue unchecked. If his absences are recorded as unauthorised then the school Attendance Officer (whatever the title is now) should be involved.
The boy's father?

paddyann54 Tue 05-Jul-22 09:27:28

My GD has had issues with school since they returned after the pandemic .She and her sister help care for their sick mum and she was so scared that being among a lot of people would be a danger to mums health that she just refused to go.
She gets stressed and crys and even the bus trip to school will make her physically sick .Its 20 miles to school so some days she makes it in only to be sent/brought back home
The school has been brilliant ,she gets work for when she cant /wont attempt to go and a councillor who speaks to her every day .Theres a support worker who will drive her in and back whenever she's had enough of what she calls the too peopley place .
If your GS has issues you aren't aware of ask for help from the schools mental health professionals ,they'll work out how best to help him through whatever bothers him about school .They have been a godsend to us,if its any consolation my GD is still doing exceptionally well in her grades ,hopefully you'll get the same support for your GS.Good luck to you all

annodomini Tue 05-Jul-22 10:06:14

My GS, at around the same age presented the same problem. The head and head of year were just as good as your GS's teachers. He was referred to the school counsellor and developed a good relationship with her. If your GS's school has a counsellor, it would be a good idea to have him referred. Child psychologists are snowed under and he could be grown up before he reached the head of that queue, but if the parents have medical insurance that covers their children, it might be possible to find one.

Glorianny Tue 05-Jul-22 10:06:40

Children at 13 are often very protective of their parents and don't want to worry them about things like bullying. So he may be hiding something. Having lots of friends doesn't mean he can't be being bullied. Indeed bullies sometimes target such children because they are jealous.
I think you need to find out if there is a specific part of the school day he can't manage, and if there is contact the school and arrange ways to help him through the difficult time.
Go back to the school and ask that he be given work to do if he stays at home (It's easy enough to e-mail stuff to him on his non-attendance days)
The miracle to me is that any child manages to get through the nightmare of secondary education.

Redhead56 Tue 05-Jul-22 10:08:57

My son was rather timid as a boy and went through a phase of crying when leaving the house for school. It went on for a few weeks obviously I was concerned and asking questions. He was being bullied and was worried about telling anyone including us. Until it came to ahead and it was sorted out by the school and dealt with quickly.
My son soon settled down and promised to talk to us about any problems in future. It could be something similar when going through adolescence it’s difficult to admit things to people. It might be something that a good supportive talk can remedy.

midgey Tue 05-Jul-22 10:20:24

Poor chap. I do think that schools are pretty horrible places, it is the only time in your life when you simply have no choice but to be in a group of people you may dislike and then a lot of these horrendous academies demand truly ridiculous rules. Perhaps if your daughter could go for a walk or a drive with him he may be able to tell her the problem…..often when people do not have to look at someone they are able to open up.

wildswan16 Tue 05-Jul-22 10:30:49

It's always worth checking if the absences coincide with a particular subject, particular teacher etc.

Callistemon21 Tue 05-Jul-22 10:54:29

I am surprised at the Head of Year's attitude, particularly him citing having missed so much time during the pandemic as an excuse

I'm not surprised and I do think it's a factor if not the whole problem in this case.

paddyann's post gives an insight into some of the problems that Covid lockdowns have caused with some children. Anxiety over perhaps passing on the virus to vulnerable relatives. One of my DGC has to use crowded public transport to travel to and from school which is an added anxiety.
Feeling comfortable with working at home with no distractions and producing good work then returning to school with distractions in the classroom.
Friendship groups may have shifted, too, causing unhappiness.

Most schools seem to have at least a peripatetic welfare officer post-pandemic and I'm surprised the Head of Year has not suggested your DGS has meetings with him or her. He might be able to talk to an outside, non- judgemental person abut any problems he is reluctant to share with family or teachers. The school needs to be more proactive than this.

It would be as well to arrange a checkup with the GP too, to make sure nothing is physically wrong.

purplehead Tue 05-Jul-22 11:15:49

Many thanks for all your helpful replies.
I have taken on board all your comments and will tell my daughter to ask for some school work to be done at home (nev er thought of that) and to see GP and possibly a councellor

Callistemon21 Tue 05-Jul-22 11:22:48

I think the school counsellor will have experience of dealing with school refusal, will listen and might find out if there is a specific problem he doesn't want to share with his mother.

The School Psychological Service probably has a long waiting list, as annodomini said but chatting to the school counsellor may be all that is necessary at this stage.

Shelflife Tue 05-Jul-22 12:09:07

Please encourage your daughter to seek help, I do think his head of year should not simply suggest he is at an arkward age or it's all down to hormones! Good luck.

Glorianny Tue 05-Jul-22 14:07:33

Schools used to have attendance officers (not sure if they do now) one of their jobs was to try and help get school refusers into school. They would sometimes offer lifts, or arrange to meet the child and accompany them into school. Some were excellent and offered real support. It might be worth asking if the school has one.

GagaJo Tue 05-Jul-22 16:42:43

I've had a couple of experiences with friends or family in relation to school refusal.

1) Niece. At 15 became very resistent to school. Her mother sympathised and wouldn't force her. In the end, it was decided she could become home schooled, which in actual fact meant almost no work at all (I know this because I worked with her remotely, and she did almost none of the work I gave her). Her ambition was to be a primary teacher and she totally blew this due to not getting GCSEs, then A Levels, hence, couldn't go to uni. She's spent the last 10 years in low paid jobs and is still living in a bedsit.

2) A friend had a very similar situation with her DD to the OP. Daughter claimed to be ill A LOT. Friend was sympathetic and didn't force her daughter into school. At the end of the year, her attendance on her school report was four times higher than my DD, who had health issues.

I'm afraid, as a mother and as a teacher, I would have just forced both of these girls into school. I'd have every sympathy for how they felt, but wouldn't put their education on hold because of it.

As a teacher, I know schools can make lots of accommodations for students that are wary of school. There will be teaching assistants or a SENCO, or somewhere that can let them work outside of a classroom environment. At times students can be given work in the room of a teacher who is on a planning period (for supervision).

I also agree with Glorianny. There will be some sort of attendance officer or a head of year that can go out of school, to collect students. I do think that other than if a student locks themself into a bedroom, they should be made to go into school, unless a parent is prepared to take on active home schooling.

Life without a proper education isn't a viable proposition.

Callistemon21 Tue 05-Jul-22 16:53:38

I'm afraid, as a mother and as a teacher, I would have just forced both of these girls into school. I'd have every sympathy for how they felt, but wouldn't put their education on hold because of it

I think it's a good idea to get to the bottom of what could be worrying a child and it could be nothing to do with school. But yes, I've known a couple of instances where parents have ensured reluctant teenagers do attend school and have had successful outcomes, overcoming the school refusal, succeeding, going to university and having good careers - ironically as teachers themselves.

M0nica Tue 05-Jul-22 18:01:24

but others, have truanted, turned to drugs, self-harmed, had mental breakdowns and committed suicide when they have been forced back to school with the problem that caused the school aversion in the first place, unresolved.

Callistemon21 Tue 05-Jul-22 18:02:27


but others, have truanted, turned to drugs, self-harmed, had mental breakdowns and committed suicide when they have been forced back to school with the problem that caused the school aversion in the first place, unresolved.

That's why I said:

I think it's a good idea to get to the bottom of what could be worrying a child and it could be nothing to do with school

Shelflife Tue 05-Jul-22 18:15:02

I suspect it is nothing to do with school , so I agree with Callistemon. Forcing him into school may well backfire , however I would most definitely press him to talk and tell his parents his fears. Certainly missing school can be very detremental , however if this happens all is not lost . As a past teacher in FE I have seen students who failed in school make the most amazing progress in a FE college. This environment is often a more appropriate learning environment, so all is not lost !

Joseanne Tue 05-Jul-22 18:28:15

Sometimes it's impossible get to the bottom of what is worrying a child though. Often it isn't one simple thing, like low self esteem or being bullied, but a combination of several issues. Some cope, some don't.
I was the mother, and Headmistress, who forced my child into school. It was the wrong thing to do and I should have been more concerned with the child's welfare than achieving decent grades. I wouldn't do that again.
You're right purplehead your DD can't physically force her son to go, it's not like she can bundle him into the car at that age. And anyway, he is quite capable of bunking off the minute she drops him at the gate, believe me.
I have no answers, but as others have said, things can turn out fine in the end and I hope that is the case for you once your daughter has explored counselling or a chat with the GP.

paddyann54 Tue 05-Jul-22 19:14:35

I totally disagree Gaga my GD's health comes before anything else ,I say that as someone who left school at 15 against everyones wishes and had my own business at 21 ,
That and the other businesses that I've had over the decades have provided for our own family and for 16 other families,I sold one to an international compny who head hunted me but were happy to take the business and my guidance for 18 months so it continued in the same way .
NO exams,I believe I've been successful without them and know many others who did the same .Life without what you call a proper education is very much a viable proposition ,even in 2022 .Especially if it comes at a risk of mental health issues from an early age