Triple P International Country Director, Carol Markie-Dadds, says pre-pandemic, 1 to 5 per cent of children and adolescents experienced school refusal, with recent estimates showing this may have now tripled.
“The disruptions to children’s learning and lives over the past few years have resulted in children who are experiencing increased levels of anxiety and left parents and carers feeling like they lack the confidence and are ill-equipped to help their children manage anxiety and school-related fears,” Ms Markie-Dadds said.
“School refusal – which has a strong association with anxiety - can impact the entire family and can lead to parents and carers feeling worried, stressed, and confused about how best to help their child. There is also the added pressure on parents’ employment and financial security because of having to balance work with looking after their child who doesn’t want to go to school,” she said.
“Parents and carers are the most influential people in a child’s life. With a school-family partnership approach and the right mix of early intervention and treatment programs, parents can learn how to recognise and address the early signs of anxiety and school refusal before they become severe and longstanding mental health issues.”
“The Australian Government’s Parenting and Education Support Program (PESP) is funding Triple P to support parents and carers to build their parenting skills and confidence by giving all families in Australia with children aged under 12 years, immediate and free access to its online programs. Making it available to all also helps reduce stigma around help seeking. This is why Triple P is calling on the inquiry to encourage the government to leverage this investment and support by:
1. facilitating collaborative partnerships between schools and families to combat school refusal by empowering educators and teachers to act as a conduit for connecting parents with available strategies and resources.
2. equipping all schools with information about the universally available Triple P – Positive Parenting online programs and resources for dissemination at challenging transition periods - when children start primary school and high school.
“The case is strong for building a strong connection between schools and families with research showing that it leads to improved student learning, attendance and behaviour and reduces the workload on an already stretched workforce.“
“Upskilling educators, teachers, counsellors, wellbeing officers and others in the school setting is also key as they are ideally placed to help parents respond effectively to concerning behaviours while also optimising children’s social, emotional, and behavioural development,” she said.
“By increasing awareness and dissemination of evidence-based parenting programs like Triple P across the education sector, many families dealing with anxiety and school refusal will benefit from the strategies and tools provided,” Ms Markie-Dadds said.
Parents and carers can access free, easy-to-use, online parenting support 24/7 at