School Refusal Phobia

School Refusal Phobia – What You Must Know Before Considering Using Physical Force On A Child Who Is Refusing To Enter A School

I was recently asked a question by a brilliant trainer called Mike White as to whether school staff could use physical force to bring a child into school who is refusing to enter the school. 

On the basis it would seem a simple question to answer because the staff have a duty of care to the child and must act in the child’s best interests so they could exercise their power to use reasonable force to do so if they believed that not doing so could place a child at risk of greater harm. 

But what if that well-intention act resulted in doing the very opposite?

What if the very act of forcing the child into school only served to increase the child’s fear and extreme anxiety and phobia?

School Refusal or School Phobia

School refusal phobia, also known as school phobia, is when a child refuses to enter a school or go to school or has problems staying in school.

The mental health charity Mind is calling for the government to recognise that these children have mental health problems and that they should be allowed to miss school, rather than being treated as truants (missing school with no official reason).

Reasons that a child may refuse to enter a school can be because of extreme fear and anxiety.

This can be brought on by bullying or even due to problems at home.

This phobic response if often accompanied by behaviours and physical symptoms like: headaches, upset stomach, feeling sick.

Sometimes a child may beg to stay at home and in one extreme case, I know of one child who would throw himself down the stairs of his house, making it look like he had slipped and fallen just to avoid going to school.

The Drive To Reduce Absenteeism & More Inclusion

Reducing absenteeism and making children go to school has always been at the top of every Government’s agenda.

And (as currently stated on a Government website):

“Local councils and schools can use various legal powers if your child is missing school without a good reason. They can give you:

  • a Parenting Order
  • an Education Supervision Order
  • a School Attendance Order
  • a fine (sometimes known as a ‘penalty notice’)”

So what should a school do if a child stands outside the school gates and refuses to enter the school?

Should staff exercise their power to use ‘reasonable force’ to physically move the child into school?

Would that be consistent with the ‘best interest of the child’ criteria and the duty of care owed to the child?

Or could that in itself be abuse?

This video explores this issue.

PS: There is also a great article from BBC Newsround on it here –