For the last term and a half our 13-year-old daughter has been refusing to go to school.
This currently consists of not getting up, or not getting dressed, or ripping her school uniform so she has nothing to wear, hiding her shoes, refusing to leave the house, and so on.
Last term she often said that she felt unwell, sometimes a headache, sometimes feeling sick, or sometimes her arm hurting. She had many investigations by the GP and the hospital; generally the diagnosis was that she is a healthy girl, but tense, and the GP has suggested an anxiety disorder.
This term, the only way we have been able to get her to go in has been to micro-manage her morning routine, checking every 5 or 10 minutes that she is awake, starting to get dressed, packed her bag, wearing shoes, and so on.
Even then she will still sometimes refuse to leave, just standing there motionless. On various different occasions we have had to put her shoes on her, and this morning I had to physically drag her from the house to the bus stop, with her trying to grab onto the door, the railings, the gate, and then refusing to get on the bus until I dragged her on with me. She was crying and screaming all the time.
The school is obviously unhappy with her lack of attendance, and we have been in to see our daughter's head of year and headteacher several times. The school reassures us that whenever they check on her, she is playing happily with friends, or working well in lessons, and that there must be some problem at home. However, during the two week half term (just ended) she was a lovely, happy girl, enjoying meeting up with her friends to play.
The school is now talking about us being prosecuted for failing to send her to school. (We are in the UK, where - as they keeps reminding us - parents can be sent to prison if their kids do not attend school.) Her attendance this term is currently around 55% - typically we can get her to go in 2-3 days a week.
I am in tatters over having to use force like this. As I write this it is two hours since I got her on the bus, but I am still shaking and in tears. Furthermore, using force like this could no doubt also get me sent to jail.
There are clearly some issues with school: for one, her allocated school locker is a touchy subject. She complains that she doesn't have one, but gets evasive and gives inconsistent answers when we quiz her on this at different times. It seems that the school gave each of them keys to their own locker, but now another girl is using our daughter's for her PE (Physical Education) kit (so that she has two lockers, one for her books and one for her PE kit).
The school claims not to have records of which locker was assigned to which girl, and has asked for us to get further details of this; when we suggest that we talk to the school about her locker she demands that we not do so.
(This reminds me very much of when I was bullied at secondary school: the boys who were taking the books out of my school bag told me that if I went to my parents or the teachers they would make my life even worse.)
There also seem to be some issues to do with her homework: while she is generally a bright girl, she sometimes gets stuck on homework. She absolutely hates to be noticed or make a fuss, so won't ask the teacher for clarification or help. But she is also very eager to please, and hates to disappoint, so she hates to hand in work that isn't perfect. Then she's stuck.
Neither me nor my wife know how to help her with this stalemate.
We are awaiting referrals for help with her mental health around this, but are completely out of ideas.
It is also particularly hard (i.e. often impossible) to get her to go in on a day that there is PE. Unlike our other daughters, this one seems embarrassed by the changes her body is undergoing; she is very much in the middle of her changes; she hunches her shoulders forward so the shape of her chest can't be seen.
Her school attendance is at the point of tearing our family apart.
I don't think the issue is just one of bullying: I think there are multiple issues all happening at once. Obviously resolving any one of these issues is going to take time, but we need her to be going to school every day.
We have obviously considered moving her to another school, but the homework and body-image issues will follow with her, and it has been our experience (both with other daughters and those of our friends) that there will be bullying at any school. So she would have to start again; at least at the current school she does have some friends.
(When we ask her if she'd like to change schools, sometimes she says yes, sometimes she says no.)
We have tried discussing the subject head-on with her, but again she gets evasive and becomes uncommunicative.
Both my wife and I work full time. It is likely that one of us will have to give up work to deal with this; that would involve selling our house (we live in the house that my wife's parents lived in before they died; it has been in her family for something like 30 years) and moving to a much cheaper area. We have lived in this area for 25 years, so all our friends and support network is here.
Our daughter has two older sisters: 16 and 18. The oldest is away at university. Neither of them had any problems with school attendance; they are both bemused by her behaviour, tell her she must go in, but she still won't.
We have been unsuccessful in determining what specific issues there are, nor has she confided in her sisters or friends (that we've been able to find out). We are only aware of the locker issue because of noticing her evasion and inconsistent answers to some very specific questions. The other issues are really supposition.
If anyone has any ideas we are clutching at straws.