The recent senate report on school refusal has identified a range of recommendations aimed at tackling the rising issue of school refusal.
Between 2021 and 2022, attendance rates dropped from 91% to 86.5%, while attendance levels fell from 71% to just 50%, the report said.*
Trauma-informed practices in schools were identified as a key recommendation to support schools to re-engage students in learning without causing further distress.
“A survey by School Can't Australia found that a lack of trauma-informed staff was one of the top ten stressors impacting school refusal (identified by 62 per cent of respondents).
The use of trauma-informed approaches was a common theme emerging from parents' answers to questions about how to prevent school refusal, how to reduce stress for students, and what had helped their child re-engage in learning.”
The report identified a focus on behaviour-based approaches as potentially causing further trauma and distress for students.
“Behaviour isn't the problem itself; there's something that triggered that behaviour, and we need to start looking at what's causing children to behave in distressed ways and address those things within the context of school and home and in the whole of our society.
“This point was reinforced by parents who recounted their children's experiences of behaviourist approaches. For example, one parent described how her son's school had required him to sign plans with attendance-based rewards and consequences. This approach led to increased anxiety and reduced self-esteem when he was unable to meet these expectations,” (Parliament of Australia, 2023, p. 92).
You can find a full copy of the report here.
The ReLATE model
ReLATE is informed by current trauma theory, and recognises the impact that trauma has on the developing body and brain of a child. It gives education professionals the knowledge and skills that enable them to be aware of the impacts of trauma on learning and wellbeing. ReLATE was developed by drawing on the practice model implemented in MacKillop Education, a special education provider that supports students who are disengaged, or at risk of disengaging from school. Contact us to talk about how ReLATE could work in your school community.