Home // Blog // Child anxiety could be factor in school absences

Child anxiety could be factor in school absences

Posted on

New research has concluded that anxiety can be a factor in poor school attendance among children and young people.

A team at the University of Exeter Medical School conducted a systematic review, which analyses all available evidence in the field. The study, published in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, increases our understanding of the link between anxiety and poor school attendance, particularly when unexcused.

The research, supported by the Wellcome Trust and the National Institute for Health Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (CLAHRC) South West Peninsula (PenCLAHRC), also identifies the lack of high-quality research in the area. In particular, we need more studies that follow children over time to clearly disentangle whether the anxiety leads to poor school attendance or the other way round.

Of 4,930 studies in the area, only 11 met the criteria which meant they could be included in the robust analysis. They were conducted in countries across North America, Europe and Asia.

The team categorised school attendance into the following categories: absenteeism (i.e. total absences); excused/medical absences; unexcused absences/truancy; and school refusal, where the child struggles to attend school due to emotional distress, despite awareness from parents and teachers.

Findings from eight studies suggested a surprising association between truancy and anxiety, as well as the expected link between anxiety and school refusal.

Lead author Katie Finning said: "Anxiety is a major issue that not only affects young people's schooling, but can also lead to worse academic, social and economic outcomes throughout life. It's important that we pick up the warning signs and support our young people as early as possible. Our research has identified a gap of high-quality studies in this area, and we urgently need to address this gap so that we best understand how to give our young people the best start in life."

Professor Tamsin Ford, who was involved in the research, said: "School staff and health professionals should be alert to the possibility that anxiety might underlie poor school attendance and can also cause lots of different physical symptoms, such as tummy and headaches". Lots of things about school can trigger anxiety in children and it is important to realise that while we all get anxious about somethings, anxiety that is severe can have a major impact on children's development.

"Anxiety is highly treatable and we have effective treatments. It is also important to understand that anxiety can lead to impulses to avoid the thing that makes you anxious. Although this avoidance reduces anxiety in the short term, it makes it even harder to cope with the trigger next time and so makes the problem worse. Most anxiety treatments work by teaching the child ways to calm themselves and slowly, with support, helping the child to prove to themselves that they can cope with things that make them anxious.

IF YOU'D LIKE US TO PROVIDE INVALUABLE HELP & SUPPORT TO YOUR PUPILS PLEASE FEEL FREE TO ASK ABOUT OUR POPULAR 'THOUGHTS ASSEMBLY' WORKSHOP. 'A LIFE-SKILL JOURNEY FOR YOUR MIND'

The resources Tracy selected to use, which included power point, discussion and videos were inspirational and wholly appropriate to motivate the children and staff into positive thinking.

The courses were delivered sensitively and struck a chord with all the staff and children.The assemblies successfully delivered an inspirational course to all the children in our school from 5 to 16 years of age. Their feedback was excellent and I know they derived a great deal from the four sessions. Tracy is sensitive and empathetic, ideal for working in her chosen field. She is extremely knowledgeable and shares her information well in a one-to-one situation or in a whole group discussion. We were attracted by Tracy’s deep knowledge and understanding of the benefits of Affinity Therapy and Coaching. The combination of knowledge and professionalism is exactly what we needed. Tracy successfully took on board the ethos of our school and wide age range of the children we wanted the course for. Their delivery was suitably differentiated to cover this age span.

Tracy is a great person with whom to work, she is knowledgeable, receptive and dynamic, offering a wide variety of skills. I was impressed all the way from my first contact to after the completion of the courses.I will not hesitate to engage Affinity Therapy and Coaching again and can, with no doubt, recommend the courses to you”.

Kate Caryl - Headmistress, Wakefield Independent School

“Just want to say a big thank you for coming into the school and helping my children, they’re a lot more determined, confident yet calm. They’ve been educating and teaching us about thoughts and behaviours at home, keen to show us the new techniques they’ve learnt too. Lots of the parents are saying the same. Can you do some more?”

Parents Association Feedback, Wakefield Independent School

"I am amazed at the positive impact the sessions have had on my son. He is more confident and self-assured. It has totally changed our night-time routine, he settles very quickly and enjoys deep, undisturbed sleep. The change has also been noticed by others who have commented on how different he seems, being more confident, expressing his own thoughts and opinions. I am looking forward to the future and how this positive influence will affect my son with his studies, home life and his interactions with other people. Thank you! (Parent feedback)