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School refusal is a very serious issue that affects 1-3% of young people and creates significant challenges for the school community, parents and students themselves. School refusal is actually defined as an emotional disorder with a number of very real symptoms ranging from separation anxiety to low self esteem, social isolation or withdrawal due to excessive fears.

It is common for parents to experience a lot of uncertainty about how to respond to the symptoms of school refusal. The physical symptoms (aches, pains, feeling sick in the stomach) and heightened anxiety present challenges for parents in deciphering “real” from “perceived” or “psychosomatic”. Supporting a young person who is school refusing can often be very exhausting and frustrating as reintegration can take a long time and is very resource intensive. Early warning signs or things to look out for:

  • Students returning to school following illness

  • Little attempt to become involved in school activities or groups

  • Family disruption or change (ie. separation/divorce, a change in mental or physical health of family members, change in living arrangements, conflict)

  • Fears of some sort (ie. something happening to a parent when they are at school)

  • Points of transition, such as primary to secondary school

  • Situations or events that have the potential to cause distress (ie. loss)

  • Students frequently presenting to sick bay at school

  • Emerging learning difficulties

  • Students with persistent aches, pains or vague health concerns

Surprisingly, research indicates that school bullying has not been identified as one of the major triggers of school refusal – although it is very important that this is investigated to ensure it is not an influencing factor. What to do:

  • Contact the school to discuss your concerns about your child and explore ways in which the school can support you

  • Help your child to identify resources and some practical strategies they can draw upon to help them manage (ie. a key teacher at the school who they feel connected with, friends from school maintaining contact with your child, identifying things your child can do, activities they can participate in during lunchtime)

  • Remain firm, clear and consistent in your expectations that your child will return to school, no matter how difficult and distressing this might seem to you or your child

  • Be mindful that school refusal is symptomatic of some sort of distress, so the issue needs to be approached with a balance of empathy and understanding as well as firmness and discipline

  • Try and give your child decision making power over how to manage their distress and plan their return to school. Acknowledge any progress, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem.

  • Maintain the hope and belief that your child will get over the problem and try not to let your child know that you are worried.


  • It may be necessary to seek professional advice and support (ie. Psychologist or counsellor, or seek advice from a service that specialises in school refusal, like Centacare’s cool2b@school program)

  • Don’t give up!

Early detection and intervention is crucial, as long term school refusal increases the likelihood of developing other psychological issues such as depression, more significant anxiety disorders and can significantly inhibit young person’s psycho-social development. References: “Getting Your Child to say Yes to School”, C Kearney “Confident Kids”, Janet Hall “The School Wobblies”, Chris Wever REBECCA PRATT STUDENT COUNSELLOR


All students enrolled in the Year 10 Mainstream Maths and Year 9 Extension Maths programs in 2010 will be required to purchase a Casio Classpad 330 calculator. The calculator has been booklisted.

I have been in touch with Abacus Calculators, a company that sells and supports a large variety of calculators to many schools. They can offer the Casio ClassPad 330 calculator for $195 with a padded carry case. This is price is very competitive, provides a two year repair/replacement warranty and includes free delivery to St Columba’s before the start of school next year.

Your daughter’s maths teacher will have order forms available from next week. Your order and payment are to be sent directly to Abacus Calculators. The order form has all the details but should you have any queries about the purchase of this CAS calculator, please do not hesitate to contact me on coyned@columba.vic.edu.au. DEBRA COYNE DOMAIN COORDINATOR MATHEMATICS


This is a writing competition run by the Australian Book Review. It calls for Australian writers aged 21 and under to write an imaginative non-fiction essay. The first prize is $300 and publication in the Australian Book Review. The word length is 1000 to 3000 words and the closing date is December 1st.

Your topic could be such things as:

  • Your original thoughts on any subject

  • Journeys and travel

  • Popular and unpopular culture

More information and entry forms are available from the box marked ‘Ms Chapman’ on the shelves in the buzzer area or at www.australianbookreview.com.au THERESE CHAPMAN DOMAIN COORDINATOR ENGLISH

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