EBSA Emotionally Based School Avoidance

Advice to help children and young people who feel anxious about going to school

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What is Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA)?

EBSA is a term used to describe a group of children and young people who have severe difficulty in attending school due to emotional factors, often resulting in prolonged absences from school.

School avoidance can be seen as a coping strategy, a behaviour seen in pupils who, for whatever reason, are finding being in school difficult.

For some, an avoidant strategy might be used to miss particular lessons, whilst others might resist attending for longer stretches.

Where ‘fight or flight’ are the two most common basic responses for dealing with threat, this avoidant type of behaviour can be seen as ‘flight’: a way of getting away from the source of threat.

Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) or "Anxiety Based School Avoidance” (ABSA) are two phrases commonly used to describe those students who are avoiding all or parts of school life, as a result of worry or anxiety.

What causes Emotionally Based School Avoidance in children?

There may be just one underlying cause, but of course there are more likely to be several, with EBSA often resulting from a complex interplay between home, school and within child factors.

Some examples could be to do with: 

  • Social anxiety - fear of ridicule, isolation, social rejection, loneliness.
  • Anxiety around learning - fear of failure, ridicule, letting others down, a bleak future.
  • Health anxiety - fear of not being well, difficulty coping with physiological effects of being in school (e.g. sensory sensitivities), fear of loss or change. 

The Psychology & Therapeutic Service would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who has contributed to the Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) guidance and resources on these pages.

We are continually updating these pages and resources to broaden accessibility and ensure the information best meets the needs of children and young people and those who support them.

Up and Coming EBSA events:

Virtual Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) sharing event

Two sessions will be held on 30 June and 5 October, from 3:30pm until 4:30pm.

For all education settings in Suffolk (you can join both or either dates). 

The Psychology and Therapeutic Service and Whole School Inclusion team will be leading these sessions. 
The aims of the session are for the two named services to gain a better understanding of how EBSA is being experienced in our settings right now (with a view to helping to shape our future support), and to create a space for attendees to share their stories, worries, questions, hopes and successes, including examples of their practice (e.g. strategies, resources, interventions).   

Please email:  EducationMHLeadNetwork@suffolk.gov.uk if you would like to attend.

All pages in this section

EBSA Resources for schools

What schools can do to help pupils presenting with EBSA

EBSA Resources for Children & Families

Emotionally Based School Avoidance Resources for families to use to support their children and young people.