Information gathering and analysis

School plays a key role in the identification of children and young people who are currently experiencing, or at risk of EBSA. It is important for schools to develop effective whole schools systems to support young people, be vigilant to early indicators and employ a thorough assess, plan, do and review cycle placing the young person at the heart of the interventions.


Potential indicators

It is very important to be proactive with EBSA. The longer the problems remain unaddressed the poorer the outcome, as the difficulties and behaviours become entrenched. Schools need to be vigilant in monitoring attendance of young people noticing any patterns in non-attendance or changes to behaviours.

A Profile of Risk of EBSA can be found in Appendix 1 Profile of Risk of EBSA. This can help practitioners identify areas of risk. The PRE schedule looks at 5 key risk areas for EBSA. The checklist is for use alongside the usual attendance monitoring systems in school, e.g. SIMS and consideration of patterns of attendance, to screen for possible EBSA in relation to non- attendance.

Possible indicators of EBSA include:
Difficulty attending school with periods of prolonged absence
Child reluctant to leave home and stays away from school with the knowledge of the parent/carer
For younger children reluctance to leave parents or get out of the car
Regular absence without indication of anti-social behaviours
Frequent absences for minor illnesses
Patterns in absences, for example, particular days and/or subjects, after weekends and holidays
Reluctance to attend school trips
The young person expresses a desire to attend classes but is unable to do so
Anxiety on separation and inappropriate dependence on family members e.g. worry expressed about the safety of those at home
Evidence of under-achievement of learning potential
Social isolation and avoidance of class mates or peer group
Challenging behaviours, particularly in relation to specific situations at school
Severe emotional upset with excessive fearfulness, outbursts of temper and complaints of feeling ill on school days
Depression and sense of isolation resulting in, low self-esteem and lack of confidence
Confusion or extreme absent mindedness shown in school due to lack of concentration resulting in, lower attainments
Physical changes i.e. sweating, sickness, aching limbs, headaches, panic attacks, abdominal pain, rapid weight loss or gain

Where significant risks of EBSA are identified, it’s really important to gather further information from the young person, parent and school staff involved with the young person and put into place strategies to support the young person as soon as possible. Swift action can prevent EBSA from becoming entrenched and result in much better outcomes. School should follow a thorough assess, plan, do and review cycle placing the young person at the heart of the planning and interventions.


Assess Gain a full understanding of the various aspects at play (child, school and family)
Plan Based on information gathered plan for a realistic small reintegration
Do Ensure resources and support is in place, good communication with school, family and others
Review Monitor the progress made and adjust the plan for next steps

Information gathering and analysis

Once a difficulty has been identified there should be a prompt investigation into the reasons for the difficulties. In order for any intervention or support plan to be successful it is essential to gain an understanding of the various aspects causing and maintaining the EBSA behaviours.

Thambirajah et al. (2008) state that the main aims of this analysis is to:

  • To confirm that the child is displaying EBSA as opposed to truancy or parentally condoned absence

  • To assess the extent and severity of (a) a school absence, (b) anxiety and (c) ascertain the types of anxiety

  • To gather information regarding the various child, family and school factors that may be contributing to the EBSA in a given child

  • To integrate the available information to arrive at a practical working hypothesis as a prelude to planning effective interventions

    It is often tempting to try to locate a simple reason and simple solution for the behaviour


    However as identified earlier it is often an interaction of a number of factors and trying to find simple causation often encourages blaming and individuals can then become anxious and defensive. Parents may feel blamed for the absences, feel that their parenting skills are being criticised and they may be fearful that they will get into trouble or even prosecuted for non- attendance. Children may feel guilty or scared that they will be forced to attend school.

    Each person may have a different perspective on EBSA and have a different story to tell. It is essential that different people’s views are respected and differences in views are acknowledged. When there is a difference of views it is often more helpful to focus on how the behaviour is occurring rather than why.


    Due to the complex nature of EBSA no fixed ‘assessment process’ can be followed. However in all cases it is essential that the views of the young person, the family and key school personnel are gathered and listened to.


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