When school goes wrong for a child?

For most children school is a positive experience, but for a number of children school goes wrong, sometimes terribly wrong. For these children, school years can mean a downward spiral involving some or all of these…

  • Literacy problems
  • Isolation
  • School Refusal
  • Truancy
  • Failing to complete school, resulting in exclusion from work or further study
  • Drug Problems
  • Suicide

The causes and triggers for these problems are varied and not always obvious. Often people jump to the conclusion that it is a result of family background or poor parenting. Unfortunately, the enormous pressure these situations put on families can result in situations that are then held up as being proof that family is the originating cause of the problem rather than the ones bearing the brunt of the fallout. It is so much easier to judge, and be judgmental, from the outside.

In reality, I think many of these situations have multiple causes, each of which on their own is not enough to cause a problem.

The interaction between the child and the school, the child and the teacher, and the child and their classmates is crucial.  A child who fits into a school’s norm will have a very different experience than the child who is significantly different – whether that be cultural, intellectual or physical. It is not deficits that mark some children out and makes their path more treacherous, it is difference, it is being in the minority.

But it is more than individual family and school situations. External factors including rapid social and environmental changes of our time, multiculturalism and the effects of technology can play a role.

Beyond The Personal

Through my dealing with schools, both state and private, I came to realise that our problems with the schooling system were symptoms of something much bigger in society than just our family and the schools we dealt with.  Indeed,  I found the answers and strategies needed in order to access a reasonably appropriate education for our children were from disciplines that looked at the bigger picture of schooling and institutional practices rather than the actions of individual adults and children within it.

The articles on this site are intended to provide ideas and alternative viewpoints, not answers. We must all choose which ideas and advice to consider and try to find answers for ourselves.

The forum on this site is intended to take you a step further, providing a safe place where you can debate the issues and tease out ideas to help you work out what might fit your situation. The forum is members-only and it is up to you how much or how little you participate and whether you do so anonymously.

School Refusal and Truancy – What’s The Difference?

OK, I'll admit it. I was a truant. During my last two years at school, I skipped school a couple of times a week. Not to do anything exciting - just to get out of the place. I left home in the morning and returned in the afternoon as though nothing had happened. My children [...]

Falling by the Wayside

This article was commissioned and published in 1996 as an article to parents of gifted children struggling to understand why gifted children often seem to drop out of school for no reason while their less intellectually inclined classmates pass them by. The term gifted is problematic but nobody seems to be able to come up [...]

Sluggish Cognitive Tempo

Here we go again - another possible diagnosis for the child who doesn't respond as desired to their educational  or test setting:  Sluggish Cognitive Tempo. These psychs really have a way with words. Read more on https://theconversation.com/is-sluggish-cognitive-tempo-a-valid-new-childhood-disorder-25646 Is it really any better than labelling someone "stupid and lazy"?  At least stupid and lazy is clearly [...]

Home Schooling – Reasons Not to Do It

There's an article ‘Unschooling’ – education fad or real alternative? https://theconversation.com/unschooling-education-fad-or-real-alternative-12548 on theconversation website. I always find it ironic that although I see merit in many of the "unschooling" theories, and am highly critical of many school practices, I end up defending the role schools play in education. Over the decades I've spent a lot [...]

Study finds homework has limited value

Will anyone listen to yet more research which confirms that homework is not good for young children? I've always been puzzled by parents who complain if their little ones don't have homework. Maybe they hate their children... or they need lessons themselves in how to make a home where children are always learning - by [...]


As part of a series OVER-DIAGNOSIS EPIDEMIC on theconversation.edu.au, Rae Thomas, Research Fellow at Bond University has written Moving the diagnostic goalposts: medicalising ADHD It's worth reading, as are the comments. This article has been moved to another site - please see https://aspergicmoments.com.au/2014/07/adhd-overdiagnosed/

Let’s Blame the Family

When children are having problems at school, and school personnel can't blame the problem on the child, then next in line is the family with their family problems, or irresponsible or feckless parents. Often this is spoken about in the security of the staffrooms and behind the parents' backs, sometimes it is hinted at when [...]

School Refusal – A Different View

There is an article published on 13th February 2012, "School? Hell no, I just won't go" about children who refuse to go to school. It's more than the "I don't feel like it today" or "I haven't done my homework" thing; it affects health and well-being of the child, and the family as a whole. [...]

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