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Information & advice

School refusal

Why do children refuse to go to school? How to recognise the signs of school refusal? And how can you help your child get back into a good school routine? Find out in this guide.

What is school refusal?

School refusal is the refusal by a child to go to school. When children completely refuse to go to school, extreme fear and anxiety are often a big reason why.

What to look out for?

  • Refusal to go to school in the morning
  • Leaving or running away from school during the school day
  • Tantrums and outbursts, especially in the morning
  • Threats to harm themselves if they’ve made to go to school
  • Physical symptoms like headaches, stomach aches, panic attacks and diarrhoea
  • Extreme clinginess: not wanting to be alone in a room
  • Sleep disturbances

How can I help my child?

  • Tackle it early: the longer you delay approaching the situation, the deeper it becomes.
  • Talk to your child: listen to their fears and respect their feeling. This will help with identifying the problem.
  • Speak to the school: talk to your child’s school and work together to support your child getting back to school.
  • Be mindful of your own emotions: children are like sponges and can sense your own anxieties. Try and be positive about them going to school.
  • Maintain a routine: maintaining a good routine can help prepare your child for school and allows them to know what to expect.
  • Motivate your child: depending on your child’s age they can respond well to motivation and encouragement through sticker charts.
  • Don’t delay goodbyes: do not delay goodbyes. This can make it harder for your child.

Our in-depth guide of school refusal has more advice on what to do if your child is refusing school and where to go for support. Download the guide and our infographic below.


In-depth guide

Our in-depth guide on School Refusal has more information on how to deal with school refusal and where to get help.

SEND Tribunal Infographic

A handy infographic of key points about school refusal that you can download and print.