Almost half a million UK pupils could refuse to return to school

As schools reopen, Barnardo’s says its findings underline the need for emotional support to be available to young people worried about the pandemic

A new poll from children’s charity Barnardo’s suggests that almost half a million UK children could refuse to return to school.

Many schools across England and Wales fully reopened for the first time since March today. Many independent schools reopen next week.

The survey of parents found 23% said their children were nervous about going back, with 4% vowing not to go in at all.

Extrapolating from the poll of 4,230 adults, the children’s charity said the results indicate that more than 440,000 young people aged 18 and under could be holding off from returning to school.

Barnardo’s says the findings underline the need for emotional support to be readily available to returning children. It recommends that teachers refer troubled pupils to the See, Hear, Respond (SHR) partnership.

Returning to school may seem very difficult, but with the right support it means the best chance of a positive future – Javed Khan, Barnardo’s chief executive

Established to offer help to young people made vulnerable by the coronavirus pandemic, the initiative is funded by the Department for Education and administered by organisations including Barnardo’s, Action for Children, the Children’s Society and 55 local charities.

SHR will contact every referral it receives, putting them in touch with the partner best-placed to support a child in their local area.

“The pandemic has triggered fear and anxiety for parents and children on a worrying scale, with families telling us they are feeling overwhelmed and uncertain how to navigate the crisis,” said Kate Isham, Action for Children’s SHR operational director.

“With so many in desperate need of guidance, the See, Hear, Respond service means our frontline staff can help families get back on their feet and tackle the unstable weeks and months ahead with the support they desperately need.”

As well as providing trained therapists to work individually with children, parents, or carers, SHR can also conduct group work with classes or specific groups of children. Tips on how to help young people manage intense feelings and emotions can be found on the SHR support hub.

“Returning to school may seem very difficult, but with the right support it means the best chance of a positive future,” said Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan. “The sooner support starts, the better the return to school will be.”


Any teacher, young person, parent or carer can call the See, Hear, Respond helpline on 0800 157 7015, from 9am-9pm Mon-Fri, or 10am-6pm on weekends. Support is also available via barnardos.org.uk/c19. Professionals can refer young people to SHR via barnardos.org.uk/see-hear-respond

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