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Gillian Keegan - School refusers to be picked up by their Headteacher’s

On the 14th of July 2023 Gillian Keegan stated that headteachers should be prepared to pick up truanting children and drive them to school.

I found this laughable, I’m sure others did too, kids don’t come to school your Headteacher should be tasked with pick up.

Let’s just dissect this a little, an average Primary school has around 280 pupils, say 2% don’t make it in thats 56 children all from different year groups and ages. Different cultures, backgrounds, family set ups some living close to the school and some far away.

Anyone who’s been to a primary school recently knows that the mornings are busy times, teachers and other staff arrive before school starts and then a bit after that school is open for business.

First, most of the children are already at the school gates waiting to come in and then some arrive late and have to be signed in. Or parents have something they want to check and ask the front desk. By the way everyone passes through the front desk, most will know the office staff by name and vice versa. At around 9 am each class carries out their class register and a few minutes after that the office staff will have a list of who is in and who is not.

Then the order of the day starts, assemblies, lessons, break, lessons, lunch, more lessons and then hometime.

The school day is busy, structured and frenetic, there aren’t many moments to catch your breath or do the thousand things you haven’t done or the thousand more that spring up throughout the day.

Senior leaders have a similar or if not more busy day than you, dealing with the top layer of administration and overseeing all members of staff, managing complexities that arise on a daily basis and setting clear goals that result in a top down effect.

Oh, and let me just add lots and lots of senior leadership are also class teachers or have class responsibilities.

So, 9:10 am rolls around and the registers have been collated, 40 or the 56 children have been accounted for. This takes place either by the parent ringing the school and letting them know the reason or the office staff ringing the parents, that might take a while.

By 10 am the school know that 6 of the children aren’t coming in because they’re refusing to.

Why would they be refusing to? And what’s the answer?

The answer - the Headteacher must go and get them.

Abigail lives a 3 minute walk from school and is easy to get, she’s still in her pyjamas but seeing her Headteacher in her kitchen springs into action and gets herself to school.

Jimmy in Year 2 suffers from school anxiety and hasn’t made it into school for over a week, he’s still refusing despite the fact his Headteacher is in his bedroom.

Then there’s Alfie is Year 4 he lives 40 minutes away and he is constantly late or not turning up because he also suffers from crippling anxiety that appears as if he’s having an asthma attack.

Shauna in Year 1 has missed most of her schooling due to Covid and is afraid to leave her mum.

Ellie in Year 3 lives over an hour away and also suffers from anxiety.

The 6th isn’t worth mentioning as they’re all fictitious. The point being it’s insane to think it would be possible for anyone to go and pick up these children. Also, the Headteacher has got bigger fish to fry with the remaining children in school and all the responsibilities a Head has. They don’t have the time to collect these children, the school day isn’t that long, by the time all of the children are rounded up, the school day is just about over.

The real nub of the issue and one that isn’t going away is what is causing the refusal in the first place. Ask any child during Covid what they missed the most and the answer was ‘their friends.’ Children aren’t refusing to go to school because they’d prefer to stay at home they’re refusing because school is scary.

Let’s talk about that for a bit…School is scary!? Why would that be? Well, during Covid all children stayed at home. This had a big impact on their mental health with rates of depression and PTSD rising. Lots of school rose to the challenge and taught remotely but children were all stuck at home and separated from their peers, taught about social distancing and hand washing and what Covid was and how it was passed.

Then after quite a while it was business as usual and Gavin Williamson told parents that children would be returning to school, they definitely would. But the night before schools were all supposed to start he changed his mind.

Children are different from adults, they don’t have the life experience to know that this big and terrifying virus would pass or that life would indeed be normal again and the normal things they were used to doing would resume and everything would start to feel and look the same again. They just had a huge life changing experience with no backup. Life has resumed and things are the same as they were before. But we’re forgetting that for a huge swathe of society, the next generation there has been no recognition and that they were the ones to cop it.

They alone have absorbed the horror of Covid and it’s implications. But it’s business as usual and life is normal now.

Sorry but WHAT!!!! Expletive, expletive, expletive - Gillian Keegan just thinks it’s a simple matter to round up the school refusers. I think it would be good for all MP’s to do a term in a Primary School and see what happens on a day-to-day basis, fingers crossed.

Just like I’ve written before, the real issue for the government isn’t ‘school refusers’ the issue is the implication and the effect that has on funding.

Each school gets a certain amount of money from the government, it depends where the school is located and numbers that go there but essentially the amount of money they receive is based on attendance. Good attendance, good money, bad attendance, bad money. Ofsted also play a part, it’s complicated, but in essence Attendance = Cash.

So you can totally see where Gillian Keegan is coming from on that front, her throwaway ridiculous jibes has some sense, all children accounted for every day, at registration, the school receives their full yearly budget. If not, it’s a headache all round.

However, we know there’s more to it and it’s about time the government put the money where their mouth is. Although, I suspect we’ll just go on as we are, on a hop and a limp.

If you have a child who is a school refuser and wants genuine, kind and practical help from trained teachers who are empathetic and lovely, please contact us at or check out the website

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