Early intervention and effective whole school systems

School plays a key role in the identification of children and young people who are currently experiencing or are at risk of EBSA. It is important for schools to develop effective whole school systems to support young people, be vigilant to early indicators and employ a thorough assess, plan, do and review cycle placing the child or young person at the heart of the interventions.

Schools should take a preventative measure towards EBSA, with a focus on early intervention and prevention. It is important to identify the early warning signs of EBSA. If unaddressed, the EBSA behaviours can become entrenched making it difficult to intervene once the child or young person has been out of education for some time.  

Indicators of risk of EBSA

See risk factors and also the EBSA risk screening tool that can be found in the EBSA toolkit. 

Early indicators of EBSA

  • low or intermittent school attendance or lateness. 
  • parents’ report that the child or young person does not want to come into school. 
  • physical signs of anxiety believed to be linked to stress (for example, stomach ache, sickness, headache) or complaining of being ill.
  • behaviour changes or fluctuations (interactions with others, reduced motivation and engagement in learning tasks). 
  • signs of emotional distress that interferes with daily functioning (anxiety, fear, school-related fear, low mood, high levels of sensitivity)
  • low mood and anxiety.
  • high reactivity that is accompanied by high levels of sensitivity.

Indicators of EBSA

  • periods of prolonged absence.  
  • persistent lateness. 
  • parent or carer unable to support their child to attend school. 
  • identifiable patterns of school non-attendance (for example, specific days, subjects, staff members). 
  • providing minor reasons for school absences. 
  • child or young person experiencing anxiety in relation to home factors (parental separation, divorce, conflict, loss, bereavement). 
  • child or young person displaying greater reliance upon family members (separation anxiety, increased proximity). 
  • concerns around academic progress due to school non-attendance or missed education. 
  • child or young person displaying increased anxiety in relation to their learning or poor self-concept as a learner. 
  • low self-esteem or lack of confidence.  
  • struggling in relation to peer relationships. 
  • physical signs of stress (stomach ache, sickness, headache) or complaining of feeling ill. 
  • displaying emotional dysregulation or distress.