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In The News

What is behind the rise in ‘school phobia’?

Nearly three years have passed since Irish schools started reopening in March 2021 and children began returning to the educational environment that was abruptly erased from their lives the previous year.


In the months that followed children and teens, who had spent months locked in their homes keeping up with classes through Zoom lessons, began reacclimatising to the social environment of a busy classroom. For most, this was relief. But for a small but significant cohort, returning to school was not desirable or, in some cases, even possible.


Three years on, school absenteeism is on the rise, with reports that school refusal and school phobia have become a big issue for principals and school staff across the country.


Tusla has warned that “unexplained” school absences have quadrupled, raising concerns that thousands of young people are missing out on an education.

In the most extreme cases, there are serious health issues at play. But there are a whole host of other reasons why other children refuse to leave their homes in the morning and attend classes.


Irish Times health editor Carl O’Brien joins In The News podcast to discuss the rise of school phobia among Irish children, while Kerry Grantham shares the story of her son James – the once “happy-go-lucky” child who became “gripped with terror” shortly after starting secondary school in 2021.


Presented by Sorcha Pollak. Produced by Suzanne Brennan.

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