Refusal is different from ‘I don’t feel like school today’. If your child is suffering anxiety or distress as a result of bullying, then this is not the time for ‘the authoritarian parent’ saying “you’ve got to go”, it is the time to be a caring, listening, supportive parent. It is the time to ensure that your child understands that what is happening is not their fault, they do not ‘deserve it’.
The imperative is that you listen and you enable your child to understand that you will support them and work to ensure they are safe, physically and emotionally.
In terms of action to resolve the situation, the first ‘given’ is a negative: you should not try to resolve issues of bullying or ‘falling out with other students’ by contacting families or parents directly. You must contact the school. It is school’s responsibility to ensure that every young person on their roll is free from physical or verbal assault. Contact a key ‘pastoral’ member of staff. That may be form teacher, head of year, or head of house. Explain your concerns objectively (do not make judgements about other students involved) and ask what steps the school will take to ameliorate the situation. Never allow yourself to be fobbed off with ‘it’s nothing’, ‘he just needs to ‘man up’’, ‘she’s too sensitive’, ‘it’s just part of growing up’ – it is not.
If the school is able to offer action that enables your child to feel safe to attend, that is great, if not, ask for a meeting with appropriate staff and attempt to design a ‘plan of action’; ensure that your child’s voice is heard. If you feel that school is not responding supportively, write immediately to the chair of governors, and copy this letter to the local authority’s safeguarding board and parent support service.
Remember that it is the legal responsibility of the local authority to ensure that your child can access appropriate education. If the school does not act appropriately, insist that the local authority intervenes., If the local authority fails, then contact the ombudsman and your MP.
- it is not possible to agree to a plan of action that enables your child to return to school, your child has a right to ‘alternative provision’;
- your child has an EHC plan or statement, then the local authority must identify your child’s needs, and fund a provision able to match those needs;
- there is no such plan, you may request one from the authority;
- you do not think there is need for such a plan, but believe that ‘alternative provision’ is required for a period of time to enable your child to return to mainstream, make your case clearly to school and local authority jointly (school has delegated AP funding, authority has ‘high needs’ block funding) …
Should the authority or school threaten prosecution for non-attendance, notify your MP and seek support from local health professionals.
Bullying need never be part of school life.