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26/10/2021

Rise in 'school phobia' reported among children last year

Rise in 'school phobia' reported among children last year

Pic: gomiche via Pixabay

Research has shown that hundreds of children did not return to school for the 2020/21 academic year due to mental health and anxiety problems.

The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) confirmed the news to The Irish Times, who were told by experts that the figures were exacerbated due to the pandemic.

A total of 346 children were approved for the receipt of home tuition due to mental health reasons and “school phobia” last year.

In addition, 70 young people have been approved for home tuition on this basis in the current academic year.

The same experts added that these figures only represent exceptional cases where home tuition has been approved, and that the full extent of problem is likely to be significantly greater.

Oireachtas education committee chairman and Fine Gael TD Paul Kehoe said about the findings: "We’ve heard so many cases of children who have struggled to resettle into school."

"In most cases there are young people where there is no history of behavioural problems."

“They are from normal homes with loving parents; but many have gone into themselves and haven’t had the confidence to reconnect with friends and teachers due to school closures."

Mr Kehoe added that the Oireachtas education committee has backed calls for in-school counselling and therapeutic supports to be made available on a pilot basis to respond to growing needs following the news.

He explained: "This kind of early intervention could help prevent issues like anxiety over school attendance building up into a crisis."

"We know there are long waiting lists to access HSE mental health services, but a model like this could provide a speedy response at a low cost."

Commenting on the news, the Department of Education said that in exceptional cases, it approves home tuition for students with diagnoses of school phobia or depression/anxiety which causes major disruption to their attendance at school.

Experts claim that the most common ages for school refusal tend to be between five and seven years at primary and 11-14 years at second level.

Psychologists at the NEPS, which is associated with the Dept of Education, work with both primary and post-primary schools and are concerned with learning, behaviour, social and emotional development.

According to its site, these psychologists work in partnership with teachers, parents and children in identifying educational needs, and also offer a range of services aimed at meeting these needs, for example, supporting individual students (through consultation and assessment), special projects and research.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article, you can call Samaritans Ireland at 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie, or you can visit its website by clicking here.

Help is always at hand and there is always someone available to listen.

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