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A pilot trialling a new pathway to improve support for children and young people affected by Emotionally Based School Avoidance is set to begin later this year in Warwickshire. 

A pilot trialling a new pathway to improve support for children and young people affected by Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) - when a child or young person has severe difficulty attending school due to emotional factors, often for prolonged periods of time - is set to begin later this year in Warwickshire. 

The new EBSA pathway seeks to respond to the growing number of children and young people who experience emotional challenges in attending school, an increase which has been seen both in Warwickshire and nationally.  

The impact of EBSA can be far reaching. In the longer-term, EBSA has been shown to negatively impact children and young people in terms of their mental health and wellbeing and can also influence educational achievement and limit social and employment opportunities.

By providing clear guidance and practical tools, the pathway aims to better equip school staff, and other professionals supporting children and young people, to identify concerns at an earlier stage so appropriate support can be put in place. 

Recognising the impact of EBSA on families, and the challenges associated with having a child off school for an extended amount of time, a key element of the pathway will also look to offer parents and carers improved information and resources on EBSA. 

The development of the pathway has been a collaborative approach between Warwickshire County Council, local schools, parents and carers, social care and health. Valuable feedback gathered from school staff, including teachers, headteachers, and governors, has been used to gain an understanding of current awareness levels and knowledge of EBSA. Additionally, the experiences of parents, carers and young people, collected through focus groups, has been pivotal in shaping the design of the new model. 

To test the effectiveness of the proposed pathway, a pilot phase will begin later this year and run for a 12-month period involving a small number of schools from across the county. Schools will work with children and young people whose attendance is at risk and will receive training and guidance from Warwickshire County Council’s specialist services, including the Educational Psychology Service and the Specialist Teaching Service, to build their skills and confidence to effectively implement the pathway. 

Results and feedback from the pilot will be used to inform the final model, which the County Council aims to implement in September 2025. 

Cllr Kam Kaur, portfolio holder for Education at Warwickshire County Council, said: “Emotionally Based School Avoidance is a serious concern affecting many children and young people in Warwickshire, and across the country and at Warwickshire County Council we recognise the huge impact this can have on their lives, as well as the wider family.  

“We realise that there is a real need for improved information and advice in this area, and this pilot will be crucial to ensure we develop a robust model that can be rolled out more widely to effectively support our schools and more importantly children, young people and their families across the county.  

“This development marks a crucial step forward in our ongoing commitment to improving outcomes for all children and young people, with and without a diagnosis of special educational needs and disabilities and I look forward to seeing the results of the trial in due course.” 

The EBSA project is part of Warwickshire’s SEND and Inclusion Change Programme (SICP), which aims to improve outcomes for children and young people with special educational needs and/or disabilities by promoting inclusion in mainstream settings, giving schools the skills and resources to meet the needs of learners and building the confidence of parents and carers. You can read more about the SICP here. 

For more information on support for social, emotional and mental health needs in school, please visit the SEND Local Offer. 

Published: 30th January 2024

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