Emotionally based school avoidance


FREE Online
15:45 - 17:00 UK time

school refusal

School, the best days of your life! Are they? This FREE session looks at Emotionally based school avoidance (EBSA) a term used to describe young people who have difficulty attending school due to emotional needs. Learn effective ways to help children and young people who have this difficulty, including examples from Dr. Cat Halligan and Jemma Michelson who have developed and delivered the Royal Free Children’s Hospital School’s ‘LinkEdUP’ online reengagement programme. This is aimed at young people who are struggling to attend mainstream school post COVID due to medical needs, complex trauma and/or social, emotional and mental health issues. This session is organised by our the ACAMH London and South East Branch.

About the session

In comparison to previously favoured terms such as ‘school refuser’, EBSA highlights the impact of unmet emotional needs over school non-attendance which then informs the intervention offered for students struggling to attend school. Supporting the psychological needs of young people with attendance difficulties is therefore crucial to create change. The LinkEdUp programme, designed and delivered by the Royal Free Hospital School and Camden’s Educational Psychology Service, aims to re-engage young people with school by supporting students, families and school staff to implement a phased return to school. This talk will outline the nature of the initial 2 week re-engagement programme and follow up support offered to schools and families over two terms. Early evaluation data suggests that the LinkEdUp programme has had a positive impact on student attendance and engagement with learning: further impact data will also be discussed.

Learning Objectives

  • To understand what Emotionally Based School Avoidance is and the principles underpinning psychological intervention for students
  • To outline the LinkEdUp programme in terms of its aims, delivery and impact


15:45 Introduction​ – Alex Yates, Head Teacher at the Royal Free Hospital Children’s School​

15:50 LinkEdUp: A programme to support students who are avoiding school​ – Dr Cathleen (Cat) Halligan, Educational Psychologist in the London Borough of Camden​, Jemma Michelson, Teacher at the Royal Free Hospital Children’s School

16:45 Q & A ​

17:00 Close

About the speakers

Dr. Cat Halligan is an Educational Psychologist working in the London Borough of Camden. In her current role, she specialises in working with young people, families and schools affected by social, emotional and mental health difficulties, including those with school attendance difficulties. She has worked with mainstream and specialist schools, supporting young people with a range of needs, their families and school staff. Prior to becoming an Educational Psychologist, Cat was a secondary teacher in London. She has recently published research about school attendance difficulties and teaching strategies for low attaining GCSE students.

Jemma Michelson has experience of working as a Primary teacher in mainstream London schools for over 10 years. In her current role, she works as a teacher at the Royal Free Children’s hospital school engaging with young people who are unable to attend school because they are receiving medical treatment in hospital. She holds the responsibility of Designated Safeguard lead as well as school Liaison teacher for the Eating Disorder Intensive service (Royal Free NHS Trust), coordinating bespoke education plans of reintegration for young people who are missing education due to ongoing  medical treatment.