AN Oxfordshire mother wants to raise awareness of some ‘extreme failings’ in the education system after her daughter became mentally unwell and stopped attending school.

She hopes that by raising awareness school staff will be given training to recognise symptoms of mental health as well as special educational needs and disabilities so children don’t miss out on school.

The mother, who has chosen to stay anonymous, said her 13-year-old daughter has not attended school since October 2020 due to her diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder  (ASD) with pathological demand avoidance (PDA), anxiety, OCD and functional neurological disorder (FND).

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She said this was triggered by severe school anxiety and school related trauma which staff dismissed as ‘being stubborn and naughty’ leading to her daughter leaving school due to a lack of support.

The Didcot-mother said: “From the age of 10 she started showing school related anxiety disorder where she struggled to get into the classroom.

“No one knew how to deal with it and we battled but very often she couldn’t get into the school grounds– she said she didn’t feel safe there.  

“We knew the transition to secondary school would be really tough. We had prewarned the school with lots of emails and previous history, my daughter tried to go, she would struggle to get dressed, struggle to leave the house, the anxiety and fear was just too much.

“If she did get in the school would put her in the student support centre and left there and some days we’d be waiting in reception for hours for some help to get her into school – no one took it seriously.

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“After traumatic meetings trying to fight for her rights they refused us access to Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) and kept saying we didn’t have a diagnosis so if she didn’t walk into the building or I must take her home.”

The mother was warned by the school that she could be fined and taken to court as the absences were not being marked as sick days.

However, once her daughter was removed from school she was diagnosed with ASD and FND and with the medical evidence and support from the doctor they were not fined.

“This is a huge problem for many parents and carers,” she said. “This is what leads to parents being fined and taken to court when usually the children have undiagnosed and unmet needs preventing them from attending and causing huge barriers to attendance.

“Staff need more training so they can pick up on these signs and stop children falling out of school. They also need to look at how they authorise absence – they need to acknowledge mental health issues.”

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The mother is now focusing on securing out of school education for her daughter after only being granted three hours of provision from Oxfordshire County Council through an approved Education and Health Care Plan (EHCP).


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This story was written by Gee Harland. She joined the team in 2022 as a senior multimedia reporter.

Gee covers Wallingford, Wantage and Didcot.

Get in touch with her by emailing:

Follow her on Twitter @Geeharland

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