Returning to school after a significant event or stressor

Supporting high school students with disability after a significant absence: A worked example


Returning to school after a significant period of absence, or regular periods of absence, can be a challenging experience for some students. Through collaboration, prior planning, and the right supports in place, schools can ensure continuity of support for students. 


This video will show school-based staff an example of how a secondary school supported a student with their return to school after a significant period of absence. The specific ways the school applied evidence-based strategies during the return, while building these strategies or adjustments on the student’s strengths, will be identified. These universal strategies can be adapted to meet the needs of students across NSW public schools.

While some students may require multiple strategies and supports that are sustained for a significant period of time, others may only require a few strategies to support their return. For more evidence-based strategies that support students after significant or regular absences, visit the supporting students after significant event guide. For a template to facilitate communication and planning between students, their parents or carers, health or other specialists (where relevant), and their school, visit the returning to school check-in template.

See: School Attendance Policy 

Reflective questions

In the example of practice, Micah becomes anxious when his return to school is discussed. When a student expresses emotions such as feeling worried, anxious, or frustrated, this can provide a ‘flag’. This ‘flag’ can signal to teachers and parents that there may be specific stressors that might need to be addressed. In Micah’s case, it was evident that he was feeling anxious and hurt about friendships. 

Thinking about your own role, what are some simple and practical steps you can take that will help you to pause to reflect and identify similar ‘flags’ with the students you work with?

See: Positive behaviour for learning

See: Wellbeing framework for schools

School refusal or a reluctance to attend, participate, or engage in school, is often driven by feelings of anxiety. Some of the key principles for supporting students experiencing feelings of anxiety are to start with what the student feels is manageable. From there, the goal is to build their confidence and capacity so that they can gradually tackle more challenging situations. Some students may fluctuate in what they feel is manageable, which can at times impact the confidence of teachers, parents, or others supporting a student. 

Thinking about your role or team and stakeholders in the broader context,how can you work together to retain a secure ‘system around the student’ that remains focused on strategies and communication? 

School Excellence Framework alignment


Effective classroom practice

Australian Professional Standards for Teachers alignment

Standard 1: Know students and how they learn

Timeframes and when to use

This resource can be used at any time to provide further information and practice guidance

Evidence base

This resource was developed with the AllPlay Learn team who conducted a series of systematic reviews of the empirical literature, with over 177,000 articles screened. The resources remain up-to-date, with content reflecting best practice reviewed by a world-class multidisciplinary research team, led by Monash University.


June 2022. Share your feedback here