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, often resulting in prolonged absences from school.

It is difficult to estimate the prevalence of EBSA. The UK literature reports that between approximately 1 and 2% of the school population, with slightly higher prevalence amongst secondary school students, are absent from school due to emotional reasons (Elliot, 1999; Guilliford & Miller, 2015). It is reported to be equally common in males and females with little evidence of a link to socioeconomic status (King & Bernstein, 2001).

The impact of EBSA on young people is far reaching. Outcomes for young people who display EBSA include poor academic attainment, reduced social opportunities and limited employment opportunities (Garry 1996, Pellegrini 2007 and Taylor 2012). EBSA is also associated with poor adult mental health, difficulties can often quickly spiral requiring inpatient treatment (Blagg 1987 and Walter et al 2010).

A previous West Sussex County Council Guidance on Emotionally Based School Refusal was produced in 2004. A multi-agency group requested that this guidance was reviewed and updated to reflect recent research and the services and support currently available.

This guidance has been produced by the Educational Psychology Service and is based on the current evidence base of the factors which are associated with positive outcomes. These include:

  • intervening early
  • working with parents and school staff as well as the young person
  • working in a flexible manner paying attention to the individual case and function served by non-attendance
  • emphasising the need for rapid return to school alongside good support and adaptations within the school environment (Baker & Bishop 2015)

    The Educational Psychology service has also produced information booklets for parents, children and young people and are holding a series of training events for school staff and other professionals to supplement this guidance with a practical ‘toolkit’ enabling them to work effectively with children and young people and their families.

    This guidance, leaflets and information regarding training can be found on the West Sussex Local Offer and West Sussex Services for Schools..

    Andrea Morgan Senior Educational Psychologist
    Dr Jerricah Holder Educational Psychologist
    Ruweida Tikly Educational Psychologist
    Imogen Hagarty Assistant Psychologist
    Laurent Holmes Assistant Psychologist
    Lydia Sole Assistant Educational Psychologist
    Andrew Parker Manager, Pupil Entitlement Investigations
    Helen Cottell Associate Advisor, Autism and Social Communication Team

    Download a PDF version of the Emotionally Based School Avoidance Guidance and other leaflets here.