Responding to emotionally-based school avoidance (EBSA)

Responding to emotionally-based school avoidance (EBSA)

On this page you can watch our webinar on emotionally-based school avoidance and access our guidance on EBSA. 


Play the EBSA webinar


Read our Guidance for schools on responding to emotionally-based school avoidance


Toolkit / Appendix

Appendix 1: Whole School Approach

1.1 Whole School Audit

1.2 Information leaflet for school staff 

Useful Videos created by young people who have experienced EBSA

CYP Voice: School is not my enemy video

CYP Voice: Walk in My Shoes video

1.3 Information leaflet for families

1.4 Information leaflet for students - primary

1.5 Information leaflet for students - secondary

1.6 Transition

School Transition and Adjustment Research Study (STARS)

Bradford’s Transition Booklets                           

Anna Freud Transition Resources

Young Minds Transition Resources                    

School Concerns Questionnaire (UCL)

What-if-cards.pdf (

1.7 EBSA and Autism

EBSA and Autism Support Guide

(Information for parents, West Sussex, 2022)

Bradford’s Social Communication Interaction and Learning (SCIL) Team can also support schools with developing their provision to meet the needs of young people with autism.

Working with parent/carers:


Appendix 2: Early Identification and Information Gathering

2.1 Gathering Information from Parents/Carers 

2.2 Information gathering from school Round Robin

2.3 Risk and Resilience Scales and Soring from EdPsychEd

A video of how to use the profiles EBSA | The EBSA Risk and Resilience Profiles (incl. scoring) | CYP (

EBSA resilience questionnaire

EBSA risk questionnaire

Scoring template – downloadable from EBSA | The EBSA Risk and Resilience Profiles (incl. scoring) | CYP (

EBSA risk and resilience example profile

2.4 My School Timeline Activity

My School Timeline worksheet

2.5 Zones and Incredible Five-point Scale activity.

Zones toolkit

Incredible Five Point Scale

2.6 Pupil Voice activities

Pupil Voice toolkit

2.7 Planning a return to school.

Return to School Planning - West Sussex

2.8 Card Sort Activity

2.9 The Ideal School Activity Pack Jericah Holder (EdPsychEd)

2.10 Bradford's Formulation Proforma

Formulation Sheet


Appendix 3: Targeted Support

3.1 Support plan templates

Support Plan - School

Support Plan - Young Person

3.2 Psychoeducation / therapeutic resources


  • Help! I’ve Got an Alarm Bell Going Off in My Head!: How Panic, Anxiety and Stress Affect Your Body (K L Aspden, 2015)
  • Starving the Anxiety Gremlin (Kate Collins-Donnelly, 2013)
  • Think Good, Feel Good (Paul Stallard, 2018)
  • Your Life Your Way (Ciarrochi and Hayes, 2020)
  • The Thriving Adolescent (Louise Hayes, 2015) book and online resources.
  • Promoting Emotional Resilience
  • The Worry Workbook: The Worry Warriors' Activity Book (Imogen Harrison, 2020)
  • What to do when you worry too much: A kids guide to overcoming anxiety (Dawn Huebner, 2005).
  • The Homunculi Approach to Social and Emotional Wellbeing: A Flexible CBY programme for Young People on the Autistic spectrum or with Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties (Anne Greig and Tommy MacKay, 2013).
  • CYP Video: Stress on the Brain
  • Anxiety Canada - My Anxiety Plan (MAP) for Children and Teens Link


Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a reflective and goal-oriented approach to help young people to manage their thoughts, emotions, and behaviours. It focuses on the idea that our thoughts can influence our feelings and actions. In a school setting, CBT is often used to teach young people how to identify and challenge negative thought patterns, develop coping skills, and build resilience.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) can be a valuable tool for addressing Emotionally Based School Avoidance (EBSA) by helping young people to change negative thoughts about school. CBT teaches practical coping skills to manage emotions and the gradual exposure in CBT helps young people to face school-related fears step by step. By fostering a positive mindset, CBT can support young people to view school in a more positive light.

CBT information and worksheets can be accessed for free at CBT Worksheets | Therapist Aid


Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT)

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT) is a practical approach that helps young people to manage difficult thoughts and emotions while staying committed to their values and goals. ACT encourages accepting feelings without judgment and guides young people to take actions that are aligned with their personal values, promoting emotional well-being and supporting a positive school experience despite the emotional challenges they may face.

The Thriving Adolescent (Louise Hayes) and the DNA-V website offers helpful ideas and resources to support the implementation of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy in schools.

3.3 Interventions to increase flexibility when considering change

Motivational Interviewing

Motivational Interviewing is a collaborative and non-judgmental approach to enable young people to talk about their goals. It helps them to explore their own reasons for positive change through supportive conversations with key adults. Motivational Interviewing can help young people to express their feelings and motivations surrounding school attendance, whilst allowing schools to understand the underlying reasons for school avoidance and collaboratively explore strategies for positive change. Through empathetic conversations, Motivational Interviewing focuses on building internal motivation to empower young people to overcome emotional challenges associated with attending school, ultimately promoting a more positive and constructive approach to school engagement.

The following resource is helpful when implementing Motivational Interviewing in an educational setting:  Motivational Interviewing in Schools (Rollnick, Kaplan et al., 2016)


Solution-Focused Approaches

Solution-Focused approaches supports young people to identify their strengths and envision small, achievable steps towards success. Instead of adopting a problem-focused approach, a Solution-Focused approach concentrates on what is already working well, fostering a positive and forward-looking mindset and helping young people to feel confident in their ability to overcome obstacles. This approach can be supportive for addressing EBSA through shifting the focus towards practical solutions and positive outcomes, as well as identifying the young person’s unique strengths, setting achievable goals to promote school attendance and emphasising successes.

The ‘Miracle Question’

Sometimes a ‘miracle question’ is used which asks young people to imagine their life without the current problem, helping them clarify their goals and envision positive change. In the context of school avoidance, it helps them to explore a future where challenges with attending school have been overcome. An example of this might be:

‘Imagine that you wake up one day and a miracle has happened overnight. All the worries or problems about going to school are gone and everything just feels better. What's the first thing you notice that tells you things have changed? How do you feel or act differently now that going to school is no longer a stress or worry for you? What will you see/hear? Who else will notice?’

The NSPCC provides a helpful framework to support the implementation of Solution-Focused practice within schools: Solution Focused Practice, NSPCC.

3.4 Avoidance Hierarchy Template

3.5 Examples of one-page profiles

One Page Profile - National Development Team for Inclusion)

One Page Profile -

3.6 Emotion Coaching

Emotion Coaching is a relational communication style which can develop emotional understanding and management of emotions. It seeks to respond to emotions in an attuned way, ‘connection first’ way by being curious and acknowledging emotions.

More information can be found here Emotion Coaching

Training can be requested via the Educational Psychology Team or the Virtual School


The following table can help with developing communication scripts:

Emotion Coaching Step



Step 1. Recognise feelings and empathise

Pay attention to the young person’s feelings and put yourself in their shoes. Consider a time when you may have experienced a similar emotion.

I remember feeling incredibly anxious about giving a presentation at work and not wanting to go in that day…I wonder whether the young person feels that emotion every day they’re in school?

Step 2. Label and validate the emotion

Help the young person to feel you understand and acknowledge their emotions. This includes labelling the feeling for the young person to provide them with the emotional vocabulary and help them to feel validated.

"I’m wondering whether going to Maths lessons might be making you feel anxious or worried. It's normal to have these feelings, and I want you to know that I'm here to understand and support you."

Step 3. Positive limit setting (if needed)

Limit setting involves establishing and communicating boundaries for behaviour while still acknowledging and validating the young person's emotions. This should be phrased in a positive way.

‘It's okay to find certain subjects challenging. Attending Maths is important for helping to develop skills that will be important for your future, like managing money and budgeting, so we will work together to find ways to make it more manageable and enjoyable for you to attend lessons’

Step 4. Problem-Solving

Engage the young person in finding solutions to address the specific challenges they face at school. Work together to develop strategies that make attending school more manageable and less emotionally overwhelming.


‘Let's have a think about some strategies to make Maths lessons more enjoyable for you. Perhaps we can explore additional resources, consider extra help, or find ways to make the learning process more engaging. What do you think might help you feel better about attending your Maths lessons?’

3.7 Flowchart for identification and decision-making for young people with EBSA.


Appendix 4: Support Services

4.1 Local Support Services

Family and Young Person’s Information Service - A free impartial service offering advice, information and signposting to children, young people and families within the Bradford district.

Healthy Minds: Support for Schools

Support for schools – Healthy Minds - Information, services and activities designed to help schools and teachers support their students' mental health and wellbeing.

Further support

4.2 Resource list for supporting families



Page owned by Rebecca Smith, last updated on 22/05/2024. This page has been viewed 1,181 times.