When a student is identified as being at risk of school avoidance or is displaying anxiety based school avoidance behaviours, it will be essential that a comprehensive plan is developed. This will need to involve key members of staff alongside parents/carers and other agencies as appropriate.
In order to develop the most personalised plan, below are a number of factors that could be considered at this stage. Listening to the views of the student will be crucial when developing a support plan.
- Gather information about the child’s educational history – have there been similar issues apparent before? If so, what triggered these and what helped?
- The child’s developmental history – are there any relevant health, medical, sensory or social factors that need to be considered?
- Is there a pattern to attendance difficulties? When does the student attend more and what is it about those times that make it more successful? Are they avoiding something specific?
- What is going well and what aspects of school does the student enjoy?
- Review the student’s progress in learning and consider possible learning difficulties.
Relationships and belonging
- Discuss the student’s friendships group with those involved, historically and currently, highlighting any changes if there are any – is there evidence of isolation or rejection?
- Gain the student’s perspective on whether they feel that they belong and fit in at school.
- Does the student have an adult in school that they can talk to if needed?
- Do they trust and like their teachers, who is their favourite teacher? Why?
- What are people’s understandings of why the student is demonstrating these behaviours?
- If the student is feeling anxious, where might this be coming from?
- Have there been any adverse family experiences? Consider using the tool ‘Identifying students at risk of ABSA’ to explore underlying factors that may be significant.
- What does the student do when they are absent from school? Is avoidance of school reinforcing their anxiety?
- Considering the views of all involved and the information gathered from the questions above, what is the next small step for the student, being realistic and achievable? Remember not to create plans that are unrealistic.
- If a reduced timetable is being used, what is also being done alongside this to support the student in managing their anxiety and to enhance coping skills?
- Are there difficulties leaving the house? If so, what is the morning routine and what may help?
- Is there a need for parent/carer support and how can this be coordinated and delivered?
- Does the student need support in any specific areas of understanding or managing emotions?
- Is it appropriate to involve any external support agencies?
- Consider how to increase a sense of school belonging and maintain access to school activities.
- In the classroom, where is the student most comfortable sitting? Does support moving between classes need consideration?
- Are there particular aspects of class that the student finds hard? For example, reading aloud or being chosen to answer questions.