Going back to school following a period of extended school non-attendance
: What do secondary-aged young people and their parents find supportive? An Appreciative Inquiry

  • Eleanor Mortimer

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


‘Extended school non-attendance’ (ENSA) in young people (YP) is thought to have individual, social and economic effects for YP, families, schools and communities. ESNA is linked with interference with YP’s social relationships and academic performance (King & Bernstein, 2001) and increased risk of unemployment and mental health difficulties in adulthood (Fremont, 2003; McShane, Walter, & Rey, 2001).There is little evidence to suggest that punitive universal methods for encouraging school attendance in YP are effective (Zhang, 2004) and there appears to be a paucity of research which focuses on more individualised approaches based on the experiences of YP and their parents. The present study used Appreciative Inquiry to explore the perceptions of secondary-aged YP, who had experienced a period of ESNA, and their parents, in relation to what they had found helpful in supporting a return to school, and what they would like to see implemented for others in the future. It was hoped that, from this, further practical support for ESNA could be developed. Four semi-structured interviews were conducted with two YP and three parents. Thematic analysis was used to identify five themes from interview data. The findings of the current study offer an in-depth understanding of the importance of trusting relationships in situations of ESNA and suggest that these underpin other aspects of support perceived to be helpful. Findings also suggest that notions of ‘success’ in cases of ESNA should encompass the emotional well-being of YP. Based on the findings of the study, an appreciative model of support was developed. This represents factors which may support YP to return to school following ESNA, and factors which may support parents in situations of ESNA. This model is discussed alongside implications of the research for Educational Psychologists, schools, Local Authorities and researchers, and recommendations for future research are made.
Date of Award23 Jan 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorRob Green (Supervisor) & Dan P O'Hare (Supervisor)

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