Two in five families have dealt with ‘school refusal’ in the past year, according to a new survey.
School refusal (also known as school can’t) refers to a student’s regular and persistent negative emotional reaction to school.
It’s often anxiety-based and is not related to ‘wagging’ or temporary illness.
Data from independent research agency Lonergan was commissioned by The Greens. It asked over 1,000 Australian parents about their experiences with school refusal.
Here’s what it found.
It’s believed school can’t has been on the rise since students went back to class after periods of COVID-19 lockdown learning from home.
Mild school refusal is when a student attends class but does not complete work.
Severe school refusal is when a student does not attend classes for extended periods of time.
Rather than being a form of misbehaviour like truancy, school refusal has more to do with mental ill-health.
Last year, a Senate inquiry was tasked with investigating school can’t following a drop in student attendance rates.
The inquiry’s final report outlined recommendations for governments and education bodies.
It included flexible learning options and increased awareness of school can’t.
It also suggested programs to reduce school can’t, including helping schools identify and support students with additional needs.
According to the latest figures, 39% of parents of public and private school children said their child had been “unable to attend school in the past year because of anxiety or stress”.
Of more than 1,000 respondents, families in Queensland and Tasmania were the most likely to have experienced school can’t.
Parents of children enrolled in private schools reported lower rates of school can’t.
In response to the Senate inquiry’s findings, Education Minister Jason Clare said the report “made clear” the negative impact of school refusal.
Greens Senator Penny Allman-Payne called school can’t a “misunderstood issue that is too readily blamed on disability or mental health challenges, or passed off as misbehaviour.”
Allman-Payne said the recent polling showed school can’t is “a major problem impacting hundreds of thousands of families across the country”.