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Anxiety levels in children and young people have increased in recent years with many finding it challenging to attend mainstream education. What can we do to overcome these challenges to raise attendance and effectively support anxiety?

ange mcmillan headshotEDClass spoke to the director of Elemental Health, Ange McMillan to discuss anxiety and attendance challenges and how we can best overcome these barriers. Ange specialises in supporting children and young people who experience anxiety challenges and barriers to school attendance. She also works in collaboration with youth services to implement the best service possible to break down barriers.

Relating to current attendance and anxiety challenges in the education sector, Ange said:

“It’s a culmination of lots of different things. We are dealing with huge systemic issues in education and the wider world. I think the economic circumstances that a lot of families and young people live in are very precarious.


The lockdowns and the pandemic meant children could feel in a safe, contained environment where they could take care of their own mental health needs and then going back into education increased those levels of stress and anxiety. I think it’s there are multiple factors, individual relationships, systemic, disengagement with curriculum as well as medical diagnosable conditions. I think all of those things can contribute to experiencing stress and anxiety.”

We need to address the current challenges that are presented by implementing supportive solutions that accommodate the needs of individuals.

Looking through the neurodivergent lens

Neurodivergence discussion has also increased in recent years regarding ADHD and autism which can link to anxiety and attendance challenges. Ange stated:

“I think if we are in an education system that is very rigid and very structured, that can increase stress and anxiety and therefore make it more difficult for any young person to sit still. Developmental pathways can be impacted if a person is neurodivergent so we need to give them the conditions where they can thrive. But, if you’re in a building that is falling down, with a hole in the ceiling, has flickering lights and people are shouting at you then that immediately presents barriers to that young person wanting to access education.”

We need to find a way to break down these barriers and give children an opportunity to be excited about learning. This can then allow them to reach their educational potential and have better educational experiences and outcomes.

Supporting attendance

Attendance figures can fluctuate but can be supported through various avenues. Ange said:

“We need to work with parents and ensure young people’s voices are at the centre of everything. If a child is struggling in education, instead of automatically blaming the child or blaming the parent, we need to open up the doors for more inclusive conversations and understand the barriers they might be facing. I think it’s a real community-based approach for schools and we need to look at different areas of somebody’s experience and identify threads to see what they need.


I think we need a huge overhaul of lots of different things, but I think the EdTech emerging can provide lots of solutions. Attendance is a symptom and we need to look at what is impacting these children and find different routes into education to support them.”

Make sure to use a collaborative approach to address the needs of students and find what is most suited to them.

Online learning to support anxiety and attendance

Online learning could be a viable option for many students to support their attendance and overcome anxiety challenges. Ange highlighted:

“I think online learning can be perfect if they are choosing to engage with it. It needs to be interesting, clear and not imposed. I know your organisation has been doing this for years and years. You can break down each step, access lessons easily and know what to expect and I’ve seen that on your site. I think that takes so much stress and anxiety out of things and self-led learning works really well for so many young people.”

EDClass’s online alternative provision allows attendance codes to be claimed and students can work at their own pace in an environment they feel most comfortable with one-on-one support from UK-qualified teachers if they require it. If you like to learn how this is done call EDClass on 01909 568338, email or enquire for information here.

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