Emotionally based school avoidance (EBSA) parent carer group

We are looking for additional parent carers with experience or knowledge of emotionally based school avoidance (EBSA) to join our ‘reference group’ and help us to ensure a strong parent carer voice is heard and acted on in the local authority’s EBSA work.

The reference group will consist entirely of parent carers, with support from ESPCF staff. Its purpose is to help our two ESPCF parent carer representatives who sit on the East Sussex EBSA steering group and who are also involved in some of the associated workstreams (see below for more details about this).

What is a reference group?

Our definition is that it is a group of people who support, advise, ask questions, offer opinions, and where possible agree a collective viewpoint, based on their own knowledge and experience, on a particular subject. The aim of the reference group is to help the ESPCF parent carer representatives ensure that they are fully representative of the parent carer voice in East Sussex while carrying out their work.

How will it work?

The reference group itself can decide how it would like to work and there will be flexibility for individual circumstances and preferred ways of working; some may wish to get together online in a group to chat, others may prefer to work individually and send in comments or questions by email or phone. You can opt in and out of the different requests and we don’t expect there to be significant demands on your time. It will be more ‘ad hoc’ in nature: the parent carer reps will email the group when there is something to check or seek feedback on, and individual members can decide if and how they would like to be involved.

The type of work will be things like reading and commenting on documents and workplans, suggesting ideas, asking questions, offering amendments or revisions, and helping to decide what position the parent carer reps should be taking in relation to EBSA work.

Parent carer voice

We know from your feedback that there are many families in East Sussex who are affected by EBSA – and that even the name itself can be problematic because it doesn’t necessarily reflect the underlying causes of why some children cannot attend school.

You might remember seeing a powerful story which we published last year called ‘EBSA for me’. This was written by one of our EBSA parent carer reps, who is passionate that others should not go through what she and her family did.

This is why we need to ensure that parent carers play a central part in the local authority’s EBSA work. Please do consider becoming involved in this work if you feel you can.

East Sussex EBSA work


East Sussex County Council published an EBSA toolkit in 2022 to support services and schools. The toolkit also included guidance for parent carers, parts of which were developed by a working group formed of ESPCF members, all with experience of EBSA, and the local authority’s schools mental health adviser. The specific sections which the group worked on were: listening and talking with your child, working with your child’s school (and what school should be offering you), and looking after your own wellbeing.

We have several times flagged our concerns about some wording in the guidance and in the wider toolkit which we believe is unhelpful and does not reflect parent carers’ experiences. We continue to raise this at every opportunity.

Steering group

The development of the toolkit was overseen by an EBSA steering group, and this group reconvened in October 2023 to monitor further work relating to EBSA. The steering group comprises representatives from the education division, school health, CAMHS, post-16 services, CLASS (Communication, Learning and Autism Support Service), mental health support teams, and SEN Practice and Standards advisors, along with two parent carer reps who joined after we requested representation on the group.

Current EBSA work

The new strands of work which are underway are:

  • Data, recording, and screening
  • Training for services and schools
  • Redesign and digitalisation of EBSA toolkit
  • Policy development and alignment
  • Development of a post-16 EBSA toolkit

These are the workstreams where the EBSA parent carer representatives will be very appreciative of additional parent carer support via the reference group.

If you are interested in getting involved or would like to find out more, either in relation to joining the reference group or to help with any of the individual workstreams, please get in touch and we’ll be happy to arrange a time to chat (by phone or email, whichever you prefer).