What is Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA)?

Find out about EBSA.

EBSA stands for Emotionally Based School Avoidance.
It is a term used in reference to a group of children and young people who have difficulty in attending school due to emotional factors, sometimes resulting in prolonged absences from school.​

School avoidance can be seen as a form of coping strategy: a behaviour seen in pupils who, for whatever reason, are finding being in school difficult. The non-attendance may be conscious and planned, or it may an instinctive response to a sense of threat (different presentations of EBSA could be viewed as either reflecting fight, flight or freeze patterns of behaviour). ​

For some, an avoidant strategy might be used to miss particular lessons, whilst others might resist attending altogether. ​

‘Attendance resistance’ can arise suddenly in response to a significant event, or it can be more insipid, developing slowly over time.​

In addition to “EBSA”, occasionally the term “Emotionally Based School Non-Attendance” (EBSNA) is also used and there are several other variations. The phrase ‘School Refusal’ was used more often in the past, but has largely fallen out of favour because for many it implies the child is ‘refusing’ school from a position of authority and strength, whereas for the majority it is often from a position of fear or some kind of emotional overwhelm.​

Please look through the short slide deck document below for a helpful summary of how we as a team define and understand Emotionally Based School Avoidance.  

Suffolk support for understanding EBSA