School refusal anxiety and homeschooling

What is school refusal anxiety and how can homeschooling help?

School phobia – also referred to as school refusal – is an increasing affliction. Before the pandemic, it was already a growing concern, but the impact of Covid-19 seems to have exacerbated children’s desire not to attend school. The term is used to describe children’s feelings of anxiousness towards attending school. A usual amount of anxiety about school is normal – being worried about a test, navigating friendship circles, a teacher who may be strict… but school refusal is when the anxiety, stress and challenge of attending school on a daily basis becomes too overwhelming for children and they vehemently refuse to go.

What the numbers say…

In a November 2020 article for The Guardian, Fiona Millar noted that ‘The most recent government figures [at that time] suggest that there are about
770 000 persistent absentees in England. In 2018-19, 60 000 of these young people were missing more than half their schooling, up from 39 000 three years earlier’. And, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, approximately 2-5% of children and teens experience anxiety-related school refusal.
Young girl refusing to go to school
School refusal in primary age children

What causes school refusal anxiety?

In an article for, young people cited some of the following reasons:

  • finding school exhausting, especially if dealing with mental or physical health issues
  • finding the work difficult or problems with concentration
  • experiencing or witnessing bullying
  • feeling like they don’t ‘fit in’, aren’t accepted, supported or seen
  • additional needs such as dyslexia or ADHD not being recognised

How homeschooling
can help

Forcing a child who is feeling overly stressed about school to attend can add to their trauma. Getting to the root of the cause is important, but this may not be something that can be solved overnight. In the interim, looking to homeschooling as a temporary or permanent solution can reduce stress on both the student and the family. 
School refusal support
school refusal anxiety

Is it right for you?

Some are of the belief that homeschooling as a resolution for school refusal increases the likelihood of the child never returning to conventional school, while others feel there is no need to put their child through the stress of attending traditional schooling when there is the option of an excellent education through homeschooling.

The benefits of homeschooling in this situation include:


  • Your child can continue to learn – putting their energy towards their studies instead of their refusal to attend school
  • You are showing them support and comfort by acknowledging their trauma and finding a way for them to still be educated without forcing them into a situation that makes them uncomfortable
  • You are better able to tackle the issue in a unified way as it is not one against the other, trying to get them to attend school
  • If your child has experienced bullying or trauma at school, you are immediately removing them from a harmful situation
Support for school refusal anxiety
Homeschool support
  • The flexibility of homeschooling allows you to prioritise your child’s needs throughout the day – they can study when it suits them and when they are in the right headspace rather than being forced into a one-size-fits-all schedule
  • Offering homeschooling as a solution creates a positive reframe of the situation – instead of the negative connotation ‘my child refuses to attend school’ you can change the narrative into an affirmative outcome ‘my child has chosen to be homeschooled’
  • If the situation requires, you will have more time and availability to seek out professional help or therapy.

Learning support at Wolsey Hall Oxford

Wolsey Hall has a dedicated Learning Support team who are available to prospective and current parents and learners. Parents have the opportunity to speak to one of our Learning Support staff members free of charge – an initial call for up to 30 minutes is offered at no cost, thereafter families may decide to take up paid support services if required. Whether you’re looking for advice or support, the team is there to listen and guide you.

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