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Addressing emotionally-based school avoidance

This resource looks at the topic of emotionally-based school avoidance (EBSA) and shares ideas to help education staff address the issue.

Download the resource

Emotionally-based school avoidance is a term referring to reduced or nonattendance at school by a child or young person.

Rather than the term ‘school refusal’, the term EBSA recognises that this avoidance has its root in emotional, mental health or wellbeing issues.

Statistics from the Children’s Commissioner found that in the 2022/23 academic year, 22.3% of all pupils were persistently absent from school. In 2018/19, that figure was 10.9%, meaning that rates of persistent absence have more than doubled since the coronavirus pandemic.

Using this resource

These resources are comprised of a booklet about emotionally-based school avoidance, two videos about parents and carers’ experience of EBSA, and a recorded webinar on the topic.

The resources are designed for:

  • use by education staff in primary and secondary settings

  • use by school leaders, mental health leads and classroom teachers

Working with parents and carers

Brenda McHugh, psychotherapist and co-founder of the Pears Family School, explores the topic of emotionally-based school avoidance (EBSA), along with parent Hannah who discusses the impact of EBSA on herself and her child.

A parent's experience

Hannah, a parent whose child has experienced emotionally-based school avoidance (EBSA), talks about the impact the issue had on her son and herself, as well as what helped him re-integrate to mainstream education.

Understanding emotionally-based school avoidance webinar

In September 2022, we held a webinar for schools and colleges all about EBSA. A panel of experts explored the topic of emotionally-based school avoidance and how schools, parents and professionals can best support young people who are affected.


Download the booklet

This booklet:

- introduces the topic of EBSA

- explores some of the potential risk factors that may cause pupils to become absent from school

- provides strategies and tips to help education staff tackle the issue.

It also includes a case study from a clinician at Anna Freud who regularly works directly with young people experiencing EBSA. The case study explores how schools can work with others to tackle EBSA.

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