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School Refusal

School Refusal

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Active scribe
qwerty11

School Refusal

Hi all,

I have a now 15yo daughter who has always been exceptionally good at school. She skipped grade 3, and has remained a grade higher all the way through, doing well socially and mentally. She plays the clarinet, plays sports and we have never had a problem with getting her socially engaged and outside. She's always got energy to be doing something! We don't have any issues with mental health or depression or anxiety: she's a very fun-loving, bubbly girl.

However, while none of this has changed, she has discovered the art of being truant at school. She somehow figured out how to change my phone number in the school's system, so I have only just found out that she was skipping classes every now and then from the start of 2020. Now, it's becoming complete school refusal and she will not go to school - she's happy to do things, happy to leave the house, do whatever, just will not go to school. I've asked her why she skips class, she says she's bored, the class goes too slow and she isn't learning anything new. In this time, her grades have not changed at all which seems bizarre to me if she isn't in class learning - maybe she does already know this stuff? But she is already a year younger than everyone else in her grade now, so we can't put her up another grade.

Her school has already given her a three-day out-of-school suspension for the skipping class, which I have only just found out about, but seem reluctant to give her anything harder in class as she is already in the extension classes. I've asked her if she would consider moving to a different school or a private school and she doesn't wish to do so.

I'm at a loss of what to do for her.

Mod
MaryRO

Re: School Refusal

HI @qwerty11,

 

It's understandable that you would be distressed about your daughter. It seems that she is very high achieving, has her whole life in front of her and it appears that to be making choices that may not be beneficial for her. I can imagine this is stressful and that you would want answers.

Did you ever find out where she was going and with whom? Is it a possibility that she is wanting a difference of activities and connections in her life? Is it possible that there was bullying and as a way of having a sense of belonging, began to abscond from school? If so, she could see this as a way to be accepted by the other children, particularly as they are older than her. Also is staying away from school a way of not showing the other children how well she is doing? If there is bullying it may be a way of hiding her high marks from them.

I'm wondering if she was looking to do more things that she considered fun? At age 15 most children begin to rebel as a way to find their voice and find their own identity. Rebelling and risk taking is part of a child's development, which fit in appropriately with this stage of development. Would she consider engaging with a mentor or a youth worker who she can spend time with her, take her out, converse with her and maybe she might provide more information as to why she isn't attending (if there is another reason). Potentially there are no other reasons for refusing school, however they may be able to encourage her to attend again. You can also look for a counsellor that she can speak with, however maybe an informal one might work best.

Have you spoken to the school about what programs they can link her in with to have her reengage with school again? Having a close relationship with the school may be very useful as they can support your family with this situation. They may be able to have someone come to your home and work with coaxing her back to school. In times professional supports can do wonders and may offer a fresh perspective.

Have you asked her what she would like out of her school day and how it can be better for her? Her answer could tell you a lot. I can understand not wanting to progress her to another year as socially this can may put her out of place. As she doesn't want to change schools it might be worthwhile why she likes her current school.

I would say firstly have a discuss with the school and create a relationship. They should be able to link you in from there. I hope this helps you. Wishing you and your family all the best with this.

Active scribe
qwerty11

Re: School Refusal

Hi, (and thank you so much!)
She seems to talk freely with me about the situation, however I'm not entirely sure of anything considering how long she deceived the school and myself in that I was receiving their communications. I had a conversation with the principal and her year co-ordinator to try sort out what's gone wrong and how to encourage her back to school. They said attendance was of most importance and they needed me to get her back to school ASAP, but upon me asking for further programs or activities for her or to help make school more interesting or engaging for her, they said to not worry about anything because her grades are all good. I asked to speak with a school guidance officer and upon talking to me, again said I had nothing to worry about, despite me not being able to encourage my daughter to come with me.

She has always been a very adventurous girl, we've always assumed she likes it because nature and outdoors helps calm her fast thoughts and keeps her stimulated mentally and physically. She does rock climbing and mountain biking, and will go surfing, camping and paddling with her friends on the weekends or after school. She also works as a lifeguard at a beach, so she's got a lot of experience with "risky" activities, and independence to choose what she'd like to try and she knows she's allowed to try new things. She said when she is skipping classes or school that she'll just go anywhere, usually by herself unless a friend is with her trying to encourage her to go back to class with them. She's said she's commonly at the local public library with her own laptop to "actually learn something", to local playgrounds or parks, to the local bouldering rock climbing gym (who I am hesitant to ask about why they didn't question a 15yo climbing during school time as I don't want to embarrass her at a place she loves to go), or the forest behind our house that has climbing and biking routes, and a lake.

I have asked both her and some of her friends (mainly the older ones as I figured they'd be more observant/tend to have a big brother relationship with her), and they've all said everyone loves her, even moreso now that she's rarely there.

She said she'd love to go back to school, but there's no point when she doesn't learn anything. She said she felt that she got no attention and gets scolded when she tries to find harder things to do in their textbooks or online on their laptops, and they dismiss her straight away when she asks for more work when she finishes before everyone else. That's why I suggested changing schools to her, but she firstly doesn't think it'll change anything, and secondly we are not in the catchment for any other public schools and so would have to send her to a private school, which she identifies as "too fancy". It is also likely she would have to go to boarding school if we sent her to a private school as the closest one is well over an hour's drive away. She said she didn't care about having to make new friends and social groups.

Mod
MaryRO

Re: School Refusal

Hi @qwerty11 ,

 

It sounds like your daughter has been quite open with you and that is so great.  It sounds like you are being very proactive with resolving this issue for her and sounds like she is being supported vastly by you.  If the school is saying that you have nothing to worry about that is a very good sign.  Kudos for speaking to a guidance officer and the school have them work with your daughter to have the school day be more interesting.  It is a shame that she is not getting more tasks that are on her level.

 

It sounds like your daughter has many activities to stimulate her and support her development.  If your daughter is being open with you that is incredibly positive.  If she continues to come to you with any concerns you will then be a position of resolution and negotiation.   Hopefully this continues and there will be a fruitful outcome for all.  

Active scribe
qwerty11

Re: School Refusal

Unfortunately, the problem is that it seems to be going in the opposite direction and now that she knows I know, it's becoming a matter of just refusing to go to school at all.

Mod
MaryRO

Re: School Refusal

HI @qwerty11,

 

Uh I understand.  Ask the school if they can make a referral for a mentor or a youth worker that can do outreach visits.  Some schools are linked in with different programs.

 

 

Community Manager
Janine-RO

Re: School Refusal

Message contains a hyperlink

Hi @qwerty11 , 

 

I just wanted to check in, and see how you and your daughter have been going? 

 

It sounds like your daughter is highly intelligent and I'm wondering if it would be worth revisiting with the school if they're able to cater for her with more challenging work in subjects where she's ahead, or if accelerating her in subjects where she's particularly talented would be a possibility.  I can see that you've raised that already with the school, and I can imagine that their response could feel pretty frustrating - I think it's really reasonable for you to expect that they provide her with the extra enrichment and level of challenge that she's needing; just because she's achieving good grades doesn't mean that she doesn't need further support and enrichment.  

 

I'm just linking to material from the Australian curriculum on gifted and talented students which also links to resources for each state, in case that is helpful to guide a discussion with her school. 

 

From what you say, it sounds like boredom with what is being taught is a real issue, and it's definitely something I have heard from other parents of gifted kids.  Another option could be looking for other enrichment activities through a local university - this page also has a list of peak organisations in each state who may be able to give you some advice and support. 

 

Does your daughter know what she would like to do after she leaves school? 

Active scribe
qwerty11

Re: School Refusal

We seem to be butting heads more than ever. I'm invested in her knowing attendance is important, but she has zero interest in going anymore. Over the holidays and weekends since holidays began, we've gone to a few museums and university lectures open to the public and she loves it, but refuses to participate in conversations about high school.

I went to the school again after Mary RO's comment and the response was they have done everything they can already in giving her material for an extra two subjects, were only aware of external programs for struggling students, and that it is not possible to have her do grade twelve subjects without doing them in grade eleven. I can understand this, but it just seem like they have very little interest or care in the matter unless she's getting bad grades. I asked how she was going to get good grades if she's never at school, even to submit work. Apparently she had submitted assignments via email to her teachers, and did go to school for exam block periods, however going to classes was not on her agenda. We haven't received her grade results back yet.
I might try again with the curriculum material, thank you. The organisations will also be something I'm keen to look into for her as I'm presuming I won't need the school backing us for that.

She says something in science, particularly to do with land and environment and that she enjoys learning how the natural world works. Her current 6 subjects are geography, biology, chemistry, physics, english, math methods, and her school has given her the materials for specialist maths and engineering. Unfortunately her school does not provide the earth and environmental science course, which I think she'd be very excited to do.

Active scribe
qwerty11

Re: School Refusal

Is it okay to bribe her? Especially at this age? We have never bribed our kids to do anything before (we didn't have this problem with our older daughter), from behaving to doing chores, so she isn't personally familiar with it. I feel like if I tell her that if she goes to all her classes we can go to a university lecture, or she can go learn something new somewhere, then she might respond well.

However, that leaves me questioning if I'm a) rewarding her for bad behaviour, b) she'll be clever about it and figure out some way to get the best of both worlds, and c) she's old enough to notice us slow down and stop being so reward-regimented.

Mod
TOM-RO

Re: School Refusal

Message contains a hyperlink

@qwerty11 It sounds like your daughter is really desperate to be challenged in class, and so I am sure that being able to go to a university lecture would be a really excellent way to help stimulate, and interest her - whether it's offered as a bribe or not Smiley Happy 

 

It might be a good idea to ask your daughter (if it were a perfect world), what would need to change for her to want to go back to school. From what I've read, it sounds like she just wants the independence to be able to study content that actually interests her. While her school does sound as if they are being stubborn about your daughter's needs, it might be a good idea to organise a meeting with the school and discuss the potential of your daughter doing independent study at school. This could look like her being allowed to study whatever she likes within the subject upon completing her work in class, or even potentially being able to study in the library instead.

I also saw that you are currently in Brisbane, and so I thought it might be good to suggest UQ's Enhanced Studies Program. From my understanding, it's a program for Year 12 students (who apply for the program in year 11) to study a university course while still in high school. This sort of program could be something that greater challenges her, as well as encouraging her to try and stay in the school system. 

 

I hope this helps! Please keep us updated Smiley Happy

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