Early identification and prevention

Early identification and prevention

There is a strong case for stopping non-attendance before it has begun. Government data demonstrates the link between attendance and attainment. Currently, there is more than a 40% gap in the number of pupils with no missed sessions achieving expected standards at GCSE, and those who persistently do not attend. The effects are stark across key stages.

The resources required to reintegrate a child who is already not attending are reported to be much higher than increasing intervention for a child who is showing signs of EBSNA while attending school. This section of the toolkit highlights ways that schools can develop preventative measures. These can be developed by:

  1. Auditing the school by monitoring children who are most vulnerable.

  2. Developing preventative whole-school approaches that promote psychological well-being.

Early identification: Screening the school population

Developing a register of pupils at risk of becoming EBSNA would ensure that appropriate preventative measures are in place before a child’s attendance decreases. As EBSNA is not a diagnosis there are no standard criteria to base any screening of your school population. EBSNA describes the behavioural expression of children/young people whose needs are not met. The needs which underpin EBSNA can vary. The basis of intervention focuses on understanding the individual presentation for each case. Research shows us that there are common risk factors for becoming EBSNA at the child, family and school levels

Risk factors which increase the likelihood of EBSNA occurring





Social anxiety

Parent mental ill health 

Learning needs not being identified/met

Difficulties with emotional literacy (awareness and regulation)

Siblings being educated at home due to illness or EBSNA

Requirement to engage with activities the child can't cope with. For example, talking in front of others and assemblies. 

Separation anxiety (current or historic)

Absence of a parent

High noise levels 

Worries about home situation/family

Family transitions 

Difficulties with peer relationships

Being a young carer 

Bereavement and loss 


Low self-confidence or esteem 

limited social interaction 

Poor relationship with staff 

Physical illness/health needs 

Parents appear easily stressed by their child's anxiety and/or are overprotective 

Poor organisation/unpredictability in the child's classroom

Previous exclusions 

Conflict/family dynamic 

Harsh or unfair consequences from teachers

The EBSNA risk screening tool (Appendix 1) could be used to identify and maintain a register of vulnerable children. This could then be shared with SENCOs and pastoral leads. This would allow them to make assessments of underpinning needs and put appropriate adjustments or interventions in place when they first arise.

Prevention: School auditing

It can be helpful to think about how your school meets the needs of those who are at risk of becoming EBSNA. This should be at the whole system level to reduce the risk of EBSNA escalating. There are two tools which you may wish to use to assess this:

  1. A whole-school audit tool (Appendix 2). This is recommended for senior managers to use as a part of their school development planning. 
  2. The Autism Education Trust's Sensory Audit Tool. Sensory issues can play a large role in school avoidance. This tool is another useful way of ensuring that your school environment meets needs commonly associated with school avoidance. 

Continue to Whole school approaches to EBSNA prevention

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