Feature: When Your Child Hates School, Times SchoolGate

This feature by Antonia Chitty was published in the Times Schoolgate Blog, November 11 2008

The school years can be challenging and if your child is struggling, it may be hard to know how to help. However, it’s always helpful to know that you’re not alone.

A new book “What to Do When Your Child Hates School” gives advice on how to cope when you’re in this kind of situation, as well as including experiences from both parents and experts. Here author Antonia Chitty shares some of the best tips for helping your child.

If school isn’t meeting your child’s needs:

Your child may be unhappy at school because their needs are not being met. If you suspect your child has special needs, talk to their class teacher and the school special educational needs co-ordinator (SENCO). The SENCO can give an opinion on whether your child needs a little extra practice or whether the school should develop a plan for meeting their additional needs. There are three steps in getting your child more help:
1. School Action: when you and the school decide your child needs more help. His progress should be monitored. If the extra support is not making enough difference you move onto …
2. School Action Plus: This involves help from outside the school, which could be from an educational psychologist, a speech and language therapist or a specialist teacher.
3. Statement of Special Educational Needs: If your child needs further help to make progress, consider applying to your local authority for a ‘Statement’. This explains your child’s needs and quantifies the amount of help they are entitled to.

If your child is being bullied:

Bullying is one of the most frequent problems that leads to a child hating school. Act swiftly if you find your child is being bullied, and encourage the school to be firm. One mother, Denise, talked to her son’s teacher when he had been kicked at playtime. The school held an assembly for the year group and also spoke to the individuals responsible. The problem did not recur.
Addressing problems at an early stage is not always possible. Children often conceal bullying through fear of reprisal. When you discover your child is being bullied, stay calm. Make sure your child knows they were right to tell you. Tell the school and ask them for their anti-bullying policy. Explain the problem, allow the school time to investigate, and ask to be told they will do to stop the bullying. Arrange follow up meetings to assess whether measures are working.

If your child is struggling due to family trauma:

The illness or death of a parent or sibling can leave a child distressed. They may worry about what will happen at home when they are at school, or feel that school is now unimportant. Whatever the situation, let the school know what is happening. Take a balanced approach with attendance. Your child may need time off to work things through, but being at school can give then a chance to feel life is temporarily normal. Make sure that your child has the opportunity to talk a teacher or friend: this can help them make sense of confusing emotions. Some schools have counsellors or can put you in touch with a local service.

Working problems out with the school:

Whatever the problem, engage the school’s help in solving it. Start by talking to the class teacher informally. You may want to flag up the issue in advance so the teacher can find out what is going on. Mother of three and former school governor Belinda offers these tips for getting the most out of a meeting with the school:

  • “Write a list of the topics you want to cover.
  • Take a pen and notebook into the meeting with you and make notes.
  • Do not lose your rag, it will help nobody.
  • Summarise the meeting clearly using your notes.
  • Get the head to agree an action plan.
  • Follow it up in writing.

o If necessary copy in the Chairman of the Governors and the local authority.”

What to Do When Your Child Hates School by Antonia Chitty, is published by White Ladder Press.

Other Resources:

The Department for Children, Families and Schools, Anti-bullying Alliance, Childline, Child Bereavement Charity, Winston’s Wish (bereavement), Education Otherwise: Home Education Advisory Service,
HE Special

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