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Emotionally based school avoidance

Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) is a broad umbrella term used to describe a group of children and young people who have severe difficulty in attending school due to emotional factors. This often results in the child or young person having prolonged absences from school.

A clear distinction is made between those that are absent from school due to truanting and those that are absent from school due to the specific emotional distress that they experience around attending school.

Although the literature in this area often cites the phrase ‘school refuser’, this terminology could be considered misleading as the term ‘refuser’ implies that the young person has control over the school non-attendance.

This terminology can cause problems as it locates the ‘problem’ within the child or young person and detracts from environmental factors that could be considered instrumental in supporting a young person back to school. The term ‘school avoider’ is the preferred term in West Sussex.

Further information for schools and practitioners on how to identify, assess, plan and put in place strategies and can be found in the West Sussex Return to School Guidance, ‘Emotional based school avoidance’ (EBSA) Guidance and EBSA toolkit.

Last updated 5 October 2020

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