At Odyssey, we believe that welcoming children back to education has to start in the place they’re happiest and most comfortable – which for many is the home.
In the Ancient Greek epic poem the Odyssey, Ithaca is the home of the story’s legendary hero, Odysseus – and it’s also the name of our outreach programme.
Ithaca starts in the child’s home, and has one very clear overriding aim – to do whatever’s needed to support the student gradually return to more formal education, whether that be full-time learning at Odyssey House School, or a blend of home and classroom teaching.
Phase 1 – Tailoring support
Phase 2 – Putting the child’s needs at the forefront
Phase 3 – Encouraging re-engagement, improving life chances
Why does Ithaca exist? Because school refusal is a huge issue that effects hundreds of thousands of children across the UK, and it’s getting worse.
The most recent government statistics suggest there are over 750,000 persistent absentees in England, with 60,000 of these missing more than half their schooling in 2018-19. That was up from 39,000 just three years earlier
But unfortunately, the way this absence is often dealt with by schools and local authorities is completely counter-productive.
When a child refuses to go to school and parents or carers aren’t able to convince them otherwise, this is often labelled as ‘defiant behaviour’ or ‘inconsistent parenting’.
At Odyssey, we’re passionately opposed to this kind of destructive stereotyping. School refusal effects children of every gender and social class, and the students in question are often quiet, well-behaved and academically above-average, while others are outgoing with many friends.
Instead, we’re dedicated to understanding the reasons children refuse school, and gently helping them overcome these issues to eventually return to the classroom.
Children refuse school for a whole range of complex and often intertwining reasons.
Some children develop a fear of school itself. For others, it’s travelling to school, or the fear of being separated from their parent or carer, that’s the underlying issue.
Sometimes, school anxiety stems from traumatic past experiences such as being bullied – but in other cases, the fear doesn’t seem to have any obvious rational trigger at all.
It may be that the child has neurotypical profiles like learning difficulties or autism, which have made them more sensitive and vulnerable.
It’s equally possible that a student’s parent or carer may have emotional or physical difficulties themselves, meaning the child feels a strong sense of duty to remain at home with them.
School refusal often occurs when children are going through periods of transition, like when 5 year-olds first start primary school, or when students move from primary to secondary school.
It can also happen after long periods of authorised absence like illness, as the child struggles to readjust to the classroom environment after weeks or sometimes months away from it.
The factors contributing to school anxiety are personal to each child, but with focused and effective support, outcomes can be very positive.
We know that two-thirds of children with school anxiety will grow up to become healthy adults, with no serious lasting issues.
At Odyssey, we’re committed to ensuring positive outcomes for children with school anxiety and in particular, the one-third of young people at risk of ongoing emotional and psychological well-being difficulties, and more wider anxiety challenges such as work refusal and agoraphobia.
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in conjunction with emotional distress that
over a period of time has resulted in becoming a barrier to school engagement, or emotional distress that is
chronic and hindering attendance, usually but does not necessarily manifest in absence.
and if they previously hid absence then they stopped doing so one the absence was discovered.
beyond resistance to parental attempts to
get them to school.
currently or at an earlier stage of the problems, to secure
attendance at school, and/or the parents express their intention for their child to attend school full-time.
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