Emotionally Based School Non-Attendance

The Inclusion Team working in partnership with other agencies, are supporting schools to develop their understanding and ability to support children and young people who find it difficult to consistently attend and positively engage in school.

The EBSN guidance supports a graduated approach of support, intervention and services; it is designed to complement and work alongside existing good practice that is happening across schools in Solihull and incorporate support from other SMBC services.

The guidance is based on the current evidence base of the factors which are associated with positive outcomes. These include:

  • Early intervention
  • Systemic working: working with families, school staff and the young person
  • Formulating and intervening according to individual need

Emphasis on the need for a rapid return to the educational setting alongside intervention, support and adaptations with the school and home environment (Baker and Bishop, 2015).

Solihull MBC is promoting a graduated approach to supporting CYP with EBSN which involves three stages:

  1. Universal: Whole school, evidence-based approaches should be utilised to promote wellness enhancing, resilient environments and reduce the likelihood of EBSN concerns emerging. Whole-school training can be accessed to support staff members understanding of what such approaches look like in practice and how they can be successfully implemented.
  2. Targeted: If staff members identify concerns about a CYP in relation to EBSN, targeted, evidence-based interventions should be implemented following a plan, do, review cycle. Interventions should be tailored to each individual CYP based upon information gathered about the CYP and the reasons known for school non-engagement. Advice should be sought from SISS, CEPS or other professionals’ schools use, if required.
  3. Specialist: CYP who are identified as requiring external involvement from psychological services (e.g. CEPS, Solar) as evidenced through the Plan, Do, Review process.

The Getting Help Stage

Where risks of emotionally based school non-attendance are identified, it is important to gather further information from the young person, families and school staff involved with the young person and put in place strategies to support them as soon as possible.  Fast action can prevent emotionally based school non-attendance from becoming entrenched and result in much better outcomes.

This stage should involve also gaining the view of professionals and agencies that are currently involved in supporting the CYP and family but can also incorporate making referrals to other support agencies to help in the identification of needs and targeted intervention planning e.g. SISS services.

The Solihull EBSN guidance advocates that schools should follow thorough assess, plan, do and review cycles with the young person at the centre of the planning and interventions.

Following the gathering of information from the child, family, school and other professionals involved it is important that ‘sense’ is made of it.  In other words, an overview of the whole picture where various factors are obtained and potential formulations or hypotheses regarding the behaviour are formed.  These should then inform the intervention and return to school support plan.

In order to understand the cause of EBSA, professionals must consider the CYP’s underlying needs and how these may be contributing towards their presenting behaviour. It can be helpful to consider what the function of the behaviour is and what it may be communicating. Try to separate behaviours from feelings and underlying needs.

EBSN getting help pathway

Getting More Help

Referral to a psychological service or support service.

Educational Psychology

Educational Psychologists work both for local authorities and privately across the country. They are trained to post graduate level and may specialise in certain areas. Most schools will have a link EP they work with regularly.

An EP would seek to work with the CYP, families, educational settings and other professionals already involved to develop and psychological formulation of the EBSN functions, which may be gained through further assessment (including observations, consultations and individual assessment work).

It is important that there is a shared understanding and awareness of EBSN indicators, so that CYP at risk of EBSN can be identified as early as possible so that effective support can be put in place. It may that young people present with few or many different indicators of EBSN.

Please see Table 1 below which outlines some possible early indicators of EBSN (those you may notice before the CYP’s patterns of behaviour become entrenched) and indicators of EBSN (those you may notice once the CYP’s patterns of behaviour are more established).

In order to recognise the possible indicators of EBSN it is important that staff members remain curious about CYP’s behaviour, try to refrain from making assumptions and share information with colleagues to establish a holistic picture.

Early indicators of EBSN Indicators of EBSN
  • Sporadic attendance and/or lateness
  • Parent reporting that CYP does not want to come to school
  • Physical signs of stress believed to be linked to stress (e.g. stomach ache, sickness, headache) or complaining of feeling ill.
  • Behavioural changes or fluctuations e.g. interactions with others, reduced motivation and engagement in learning tasks
  • Periods of prolonged absence
  • Persistent lateness
  • Parent/carer unable to support CYP to attend school
  • identifiable patterns within non-school attendance e.g. specific days, subjects, staff members
  • Providing minor reasons for school absences
  • CYP experiences anxiety in relation to home factors e.g. parental separation, divorce, conflict, loss, bereavement
  • CYP displays greater reliance upon family members e.g. separation anxiety, increased proximity
  • Concerns around academic progress due to non- school attendance / missed education
  • CYP displays increased anxiety in relation to their learning and/or poor self-concept as a learner
  • Low self-esteem and/or lack of confidence
  • Struggling in relation to peer relationships and/or social situations
  • Physical signs of stress believed to be linked to stress (e.g. stomach ache, sickness, headache) or complaining of feeling ill.
  • Displays of emotional dysregulation and/or distress


Our guidance booklet has been created to help:

  • schools and professionals

Our guidance booklet has been created to help:

  • children and young people
  • parents and carers

For further information regarding this guidance and how your school can implement it, or to discuss further training requirements please contact: