Labour’s welcome helping hand for the Hidden Children


Andy Burnham’s comments on closer links between the Health Service and Education showed a welcome insight.  He pledges to overturn the privatisation of the Health Service and to give back control to local authorities.

“Local councils would take the lead in purchasing care and the NHS would be expanded so that hospitals offer social and mental health care under a Labour government, a dramatic rolling back of the coalition’s health reforms, Andy Burnham has said.”

From The Guardian (1)

“He also made it clear that local authorities would take the lead in commissioning that care, replacing the system of clinical commissioning groups where GPs are put in charge of buying treatments for patients. “It will take time, it won’t happen overnight, but I believe organisations will grow into that,” he said.

The changes represent an effective re-nationalisation of the NHS that would give hospitals and councillors a much bigger say in how the health service would run.”

Many people are unaware of the thousands of children missing from school.  Even teachers may not have an understanding of the reasons for absence. Today’s young children are pressurized by a curriculum driven by politicians, teachers striving to ensure their schools meets the targets of league tables.

The anxiety caused by extreme pressures such as this, or by the stresses of adolescence, by bullying rife in large, noisy schools  where lip service is given to  resolving bullying and teachers trained in policy, yet in practice it is very difficult to resolve, and so that the bullied child remains too frightened to attend school. Other children miss out on education because they are caring for an adult at home.

Speaking at a party conference fringe event, Andy Burnham argued that health and wellbeing boards could be the “best hope” for young people, who are losing out on early intervention to safeguard their mental health because of public services reforms.

Health and wellbeing boards are the best hope. I can’t think of any other forum that has the health responsibility but also that link in terms of the council’s other responsibilities,” he said.

He added that Labour-led councils were being encouraged to combine commissioning decisions over health and education wherever possible, to encourage early support for young people in schools and other children’s services settings.

“We’re getting them together in the same room to start talking about health and public health and starting to say, why don’t we all have a consistency in what we do? This needs to be on the education side as well,” he said.

From CYPNow: (2)

Some children are just too ill to attend school, many suffering chronic illnesses or fatigue. Forward thinking LEAs have provided specialist tutors and Tuition Centres to provide education for sick children. Sadly, the Coalition’s Education Policy is the break up of the Local Education networks. Centralised services have been cut. Academy Schools and Free Schools have no obligation to provide education for children suffering from EBSR (Emotionally Based School Refusal) (3) , or children with ME or chronic fatigue syndrome, or severely ill children (4).

Hidden children will just drop out of the statistics, to be forgotten about, the children no-one sees.  Anxiety which is not addressed may continue into adulthood.A lonely childhood can lead to depression, and life-long isolation. This demonstrates yet more ill-thought out policies from a government with no idea of the reality for anxious or ill children. Their privileged and distorted experience does not lend itself to providing solutions for health and education for the majority of people in this country. Lacking an education,  what prospects for employment and an independent life can these children hope for?

It is time we had some politicians in power who showed some empathy.  It would seem that Andy Burnham for one is showing he is in touch. How welcome that is!

1) Guradian : Andy Burnham: Pledges Reversal of NHS break up. (1)

2) CYP Now (Children and Young People Now) Andy Burnham calls on local areas to prioritise mental health in schools

3) Think Left: EBSR: Emotionally Based School Refusal

4) Think Left: Somebody help ME! (Children with ME/ Chronic Fatigue)

Other relevant posts:

Think Left: Consortia , not Academies

Think Left: Cinderella Services: Children Deserve Better.

Think Left: Integration or Inclusion

Emotionally Based School Refusal


Inclusive Policies for Emotionally Based School Refusal

by Pam F.

“Everyone Matters!”

Secondary schools have become larger, busier and noisier places. Many children find this an unsuitable learning environment. The number of GCSE subjects children are expected to sit has increased dramatically in recent years, increasing stress on young people, seemingly because of an obsession with league tables. This obsession has led some schools to now expect young people to start their GCSE subjects at an even younger age, but it is no use having a school offering a whole host of GCSEs if a child is too frightened to get through the door.

  • Labour’s education policy on EBSR must recognise that:
  • Comprehensive education provides quality education for all.
  • Children who miss an education miss many of life’s opportunities.
  • Both small and larger schools can be comprehensive as well as inclusive.
  • Children learn when they’re happy, nurtured and feel safe.
  • Staff awareness of the early signs of EBSR is essential.
  • Flexibility and co-operation of everyone is key to helping all children succeed.
  • The curriculum a child follows needs to be appropriate, and considerations should be made for in context of their ability and of their health.

Labour’s strategy will be to ensure EBSR is recognised early, and that multi professional teams work together closely ensuring an inclusive outcome.

Qualified professionals should feel confident that their assessments are valued and trusted.

So what is EBSR?

Between 2-5% of children suffer from Emotionally Based School Refusal (EBSR) (1)

According to Anxiety UK (5), up to 1-6 children suffer from anxiety of some kind at some time in their lives.

EBSR differs from truancy as unlike truants, EBSR sufferers may exhibit:

•            Severe difficulty in attending school—often amounting to prolonged absence

•            Severe emotional upset—shown by such symptoms as excessive fearfulness, undue tempers, misery, or complaints of feeling ill without obvious organic cause on being faced with the prospect of going to             school.

•            Staying at home with the knowledge of the parents, when they should be at school, at some stage in the course of the disorder.

•            Absence of significant anti-social disorders such as stealing, lying, wandering, destructiveness and   sexual misbehaviour.

If EBSR is not recognised early enough, children can become more isolated, more anxious. The anxiety can intensify if the child gets further behind at school. Some children may never leave their homes and may be unwilling to attend CAMHS appointments. Such a child being taught on a 1:1 basis at home for prolonged periods may become increasingly socially withdrawn. Furthermore, such provision is expensive and unsustainable as well as inadequate and often inappropriate.

  • Triggers causing EBSR vary and may indeed not be school based:
  • School Transfer (especially Y 6 an Y7)
  • Anxiety about the journey to school
  • Educational demands
  • The unpredictability of teacher’s demands or the school environment
  • Bullying or the fear of being bullied
  • Social Factors
  • Traumatic events within the family
  • A young person’s own long-term illness

Appropriate support put in early enough to assist a return to school is much more likely to be successful. Studies and workshops (2,3,4,) have produced some very helpful advice for schools and parents, but provision for EBSR varies widely throughout the nation. I would like to see Labour’s policy ensure provision is inclusive providing access to the curriculum and support from a range of multi-professional agencies working together. If the mainstream school environment itself or the nature of the curriculum is deemed to contribute to anxiety, then schools will need to recognise the need for flexibility and make adjustments, rather than the “one-size fits all policy”. Inclusion is about access to education and to society, it is not necessarily therefore to involve a large secondary school. Training of teaching staff and close co-operation of multi-professional teams is essential.

It is also concerning that EBSR can run in families, and therefore suffered by successive generations. The implication is clear, in that the social exclusion may continue into adult life, having further impact on mental health, on employment prospects, and the long-term quality of life for a whole family. The consequences could be depression, unemployment, and poverty and even suicide. It is not something to be ignored, however tempting it might seem to a teacher who does not have awareness of the condition to say, “Snap out of it.” It is unlikely to go away without intervention.

Labour’s caring, inclusive approach is the way forward. Every child matters, and so does every family. But schools need to be allowed the freedom of flexibility, so as to ensure the appropriate solution is found for each anxious child exhibiting EBSR.

Schools and health professionals working with them need to be reassured, to know that Labour trusts their assessments without looking over their shoulders at league tables,  the arbitrary targets to which “New Labour” adhered and which restricted the approaches that professionals could take.

Our future society cannot afford to miss out the contributions lost to our society, caused by these damaged lives and failed opportunities. We want a Labour Party that creates a fair society in which all  people can look forward to satisfying lives. We want a Labour Party that is totally committed to the belief  that “Everyone Matters”.

References re EBSR: (Emotionally Based School Refusal)

1. Mary B Wimmer PhD, Understanding School Refusal


Helpful strategies from Social and Emotional Learning Update

3. EBSR,  West Sussex Guidance for Schools, 2004

4. North Somerset Council, Every Child Matters, EBSR

Guidance for Schools pupils and families

5. Anxiety UK