Children as young as four are refusing to attend schools in Perth and Kinross because of mental health issues, it has been claimed.
Figures released through the Freedom of Information Act show that more than 200 children didn’t go to school in the region during the 2014-15 term nearly double the amount given in the 2010-11 term.
‘School refusers’ are defined by Education Scotland as children who display an extreme determination not to attend school as a result of ‘separation anxiety’ and other mental health related issues such as ‘school phobia.’ They are not classed as home schooled.
Separation anxiety is classed as ‘excessive worry and difficulty separating’ on the part of a child and possibly a parent.
The figures from the FOI show that 13 primary school children and 95 secondary school children were marked as ‘refusal to attend’ in the 2010-11 school year, with this rising to 38 primary children and 163 secondary school children in the 2014-15 school term.
Other councils in Courier Country were contacted but claimed they either didn’t have statistics on the matter or refused to provide them.
Murdo Fraser, MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said he wants the Scottish Government to do more to “combat this problem” by helping parents understand the symptoms and getting possible “fixes.”
He said: “The fact there are nearly 40 primary school children classed as school refusers in Perth and Kinross is concerning since this means kids as young as four could be too worried to go to school. Without access to a proper education the life chances of these children are greatly reduced and I would like to see a proper strategy to tackle this growing issue.
“More than 200 school children in Perth and Kinross are not getting a proper education as a result of anxiety or school phobia related issues, which is nearly double the numbers suffering with these conditions in 2011.
“Both the Scottish Government and Perth and Kinross Council must get to the bottom of this otherwise the number of children missing out on education will only continue to rise.”
A spokeswoman for Perth and Kinross Council said the local authority is committed to providing a “high-quality” educational experience for all pupils.
She said: “There are many potential reasons for school refusal, not solely anxiety or other mental health issues, and it would be wrong to suggest that any specific age group is particularly affected.
“We work closely with schools, pupils and parents/carers where refusal to attend is an issue, to address the root causes and enable pupils to return to class, in the interests of ensuring that children and young people get the best possible start in life.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Education authorities and other agencies have duties to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils.
“Schools use a number of positive relationships and behaviour approaches to support children’s engagement and attendance at school.”