Hands in a heart shape holding an infinity rainbox. Underneath the words Sandra Bell ND Coach
#36 School Can’t is usually driven by a lack of feeling safe

If we were asking adults to go into an environment where they felt fundamentally misunderstood, and/or like they may be physically hurt we would quite rightly expect the environment to be changed. Unfortunately for our children when this happens in a school environment, often, the child is expected to adapt or be resilient and keep turning up to attend school even when they feel psychologically and/or physically unsafe.

The ABC have just aired a Four Corners episode on School Can’t (you can watch it at this link  The Kids Who Can't - ABC News but have your tissues ready). Thank you to the brave families that opened up their lives for the cameras. As one of the parents shared, you don’t really know what it is like or just how hard it is for the whole family until you have a child that experiences this growing phenomenon of just not being able to go to school due to it causing them such distress. No-one is blaming individual teachers or staff, who like the students, are just doing their best within a system that no longer seems fit for purpose for a growing number of young people.

So what drives school refusal? I believe that the fundamental driver is the kids not feeling psychologically and/or physically safe at school. These kids often feel misunderstood, unsupported and disliked, not only by other students but also at times by their teachers. I know one of my children often felt disliked or unsupported by teachers. They would try their best to listen to the instructions from the teacher but couldn’t always take them in, no matter how hard they tried. So still wanting to learn they would speak up and ask what they needed to do. Instead of the teacher interpreting that as that they may need to explain it differently, because clearly how they just did it didn’t work for this student, they instead replied in an annoyed tone “I just told you” and walked away. 

Every child deserves to feel like they belong at their school, and that they are a valued member of their school community, and a valued student in their classroom. As a support staff member said in the Four Corners program “every child is worth something”. The school this staff member works at in Geelong, which was featured in the program really get that, with the co-principal saying “what we do, I think, first and foremost is create an environment of physical and emotional safety, which really enables them [the students] to create the building blocks that they need to succeed academically.” Why isn’t this the focus of every school? And maybe it is, but if so, then why are so many of our kids being let down and traumatised?

What drove, or drives, your young person’s School Can’t?

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