If you don’t yet follow our founder Chrissa Wadlow on Instagram under her new channel ‘SunshineChrissa‘, you’re missing out. Her latest 5-part series on the REAL reasons for school avoidance addresses the nuance behind why children may struggle to go to school – you may find it highly relatable. Evoking meaningful and validating conversations about these highly emotional topics is something that Chrissa is accomplished at, and we think you’ll get a lot out of what she has to say.

So, with that said, what ARE the REAL reasons for school avoidance?

The real reasons behind school avoidance can mostly be categorised within the Learner’s Hierarchy of Needs – this is a great tool based upon the original model by Maslow, demonstrating what a school (and parents) should consider when exploring why a child struggles to attend school. The school climate should be able to meet a learner’s needs and values to ensure that the provision is suitable for the individual child – when any of these levels of the hierarchy are at fault for any reason, like a proverbial ‘house of cards’, the whole structure comes crashing down leading to school avoidance. Please feel welcome to save and share any of our infographics to raise awareness!


Why are our children finding school attendance so tricky? Chrissa went live with our community for a chat about school avoidance/reluctance/refusal and why it’s such an issue. You should find it a very useful, relatable and most of all, validating watch.

Here, Chrissa breaks down the five levels of the Learner’s Hierarchy of Needs as part of her 5 part series.

These five facts represent the levels of the Learner’s Hierarchy, which overall encompass the fundamentals of ‘School Climate’, which Chrissa discussed in her live video above. Research by experts such as Zullig et al in School Climate: Definition, Measurement, and Application provides some eye-opening empirical evidence that demonstrates just how interwoven the ‘climate’ of a school is with the wellbeing of the students who attend.

Fact one: ORDER, SAFETY & DISCIPLINE – how do the students perceive the safety of the school?

Fact 1 is all about ORDER, SAFETY & DISCIPLINE – how do the students at the school perceive the safety of the environment? It is of fundamental importance that children feel safe and secure in school. If they feel unsafe, it is then vital that we address the what’s and the why’s. Here’s some important questions that schools and parents should be asking themselves when addressing this element of the hierarchy;

If there is a misalignment between the child and the school here, and values don’t match – then we have a potential problem on our hands!

Fact two: ACADEMIC OUTCOMES – do the schools ambitions match the needs of students?

Recognition and acknowledgement or lack thereof can really detrimentally impact a child’s learning and their desire to learn and attend school – realistically, would you want to attend work if you felt ignored, or even worse, maligned and criticised constantly, like you can’t achieve anything? With this in mind, it’s understandable that a child whose needs do not align with the ambitions of their school may be reluctant to attend. Whether the ambitions of the school are high, or are more relaxed, it is essential that the child’s ambitions and abilities match. For example, a child who wants to eventually sit their GCSE’s and who is academically able wouldn’t thrive at a school where GCSE’s are not on the curriculum. Questions to ask;

Understanding how the school delivers their academic expectations, and comparing this with the child/young person’s needs and desires is essential to understand suitability. A mismatch in ambition and need could be a big red flag and foreshadow future attendance difficulties.

Fact three: SCHOOL CONNECTEDNESS – how engaged is the school community?

Community and the feeling of being part of something is very important when it comes to attending school; it’s human nature to want to belong, or at the very least feel welcome in the environment even if the individual isn’t highly sociable as it’s absolutely ok to be a person who isn’t highly sociable, contrary to the social expectations often put upon children! Important questions to ask…

As Chrissa says in her video series, if there are fractures in the connectedness we may see this as another red flag for non-attendance. 

Fact four: RELATIONSHIPS – what are student to student, teacher to teacher, and student to teacher relationships like?

As we’ve said previously, the REAL reasons behind SCHOOL AVOIDANCE can usually be pinpointed to a mismatch of what a student needs, compared to what the school can actually provide that child in terms of school climate. Social relationships are so important to us all – once again going back to human nature – and if we have meaningful relationships where we feel that sense of belonging, then it meets our ‘needs and desires’. We need to get along with others, and as a by-product of that, we also thrive off of seeing other people getting along.

This is why REPRESENTATION is so important. Without representation, it becomes much harder to develop and maintain meaningful connections. 

Fact five: SCHOOL FACILITIES – what is the physical environment like?

One element often overlooked, in our experience, is the issue of the school facilities. This is particularly relevant to children with sensory processing difficulties, which is surprising considering how common sense it would be to associate the two! Would you want to go into a highly noisy, busy classroom if you found loud noises hard to cope with? Would you find it easy to sit in a dinner hall with the smell of strange and unpredictable food items wafting past you, if you found it hard to cope with smells? Some important things to consider;

As we mentioned earlier, if these elements of the school climate – in this instance, the physical environment – are not aligning with the students needs and beliefs then it can present a problem, thus potentially contributing towards a reluctance or full avoidance of school attendance. 

Understanding School Avoidance: How Mismatched School Climates Affect Our Children’s Education:

In this YouTube video by Chrissa, she discusses the ‘growing trend of school avoidance’ and explores why so many children struggle to attend school. She points out that this is NOT a new issue; in fact, it has been building up as a growing problem over decades. Chrissa strongly believes that the root of this lies within a ‘mismatch between school climate and the needs of our children’. We’re increasingly seeing that the environment within our schools is not aligning with what our children need for a successful education.

Feel free to save and share our infographic on School Climate below.

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