About Define Fine

Define Fine has been created by a small but committed team of parents and professionals who have lived experience of school attendance difficulties. As DEFINE FINE: Parent Peer Support for School Attendance Difficulties we support our members who are struggling with school attendance difficulties and parent carers from our wider SEND and mental health networks.  

We provide peer support using our tried and tested resources and to help parents advocate for the support their children and young people need to be able to learn and achieve. We hope to build up our growing network of peer supporters, who we can train to use our guides for their own family and ultimately to then help other families experiencing attendance difficulties.

Our resources and training are also available for professionals in Education, Health and Social Care.

Empowering parents to be able to effectively work with professionals, should encourage not only earlier intervention, with much better outcomes, but also reduce the risk and impact of unhelpful, and unnecessary attendance prosecutions and social services interventions. It is vital that children, young people and their families receive appropriate support, and especially in cases where professionals insist children are “fine in school, “ all are clear as to how fine is actually defined.

For us “fine in school” would mean that children are safe, healthy, happy and their needs are acknowledged and supported to be able to access suitable education and learn.

Please follow us on our Facebook Page


And join us in our Define Fine Parent Peer Support  for School Attendance Difficulties Private Facebook Group


Louise Parker Engels,  Rebecca Jasper and team

Our Barriers to School Attendance Guide has  been reviewed and updated based on relevant government guidance for all parent carers and professionals supporting children and young people with school attendance difficulties.

Please click  here to read and then share our guide

Before we became DEFINE FINE we were co-founder and members of the Not Fine in School management team.  Together we co-produced the name, logo and the resources  and worked together to build a successful and still growing private facebook Group.

Define Fine has been  set up as  parent/carer-led organisation set up in response to the growing number of children and young people who struggle with school attendance – often inaccurately or unfairly referred to as ‘school refusal’.  For so many ” school refusal ” this doesn’t describe the difficulties and barriers they face.   In our experience it is a case of being unable to attend rather than refusing to attend.

For a number of years we have worked  hard to support  parents and families, and  to raise awareness of the challenges children and young people and their families face.   Our resources are for parents, carers and  professionals  which we hope will bring  improvements to the support that is offered, and  ensure national guidance and policies are understood and put into practice,  to reduce the numbers of children experiencing attendance barriers.  We continue that work now through Define Fine.

Is a Child or Young Person Really ‘Fine’ in School?

Increasingly parents of children who struggle at school with SEND, health problems, or bullying are reporting that their children are described as being ‘fine at school’.

If this happens it may be helpful for parents and other professionals to ask for clarification and consideration of the following points.

Before describing a child or young person as being fine in school could you please make sure:

  • You have a good working definition of the world ‘fine’ and that you have gathered enough evidence as to why you make that claim or assumption
  • You are qualified to make that statement, or that s/he has been properly observed and assessed by someone who is
  • You know him or her well enough, or have listened to and considered descriptions of their difficulties by someone who does
  • You have considered the impact of any diagnosed or suspected SEND, including the possibility that s/he may be masking their difficulties at school
  • You have considered the impact of this assumption on the child or young person’s well-beingPlease be aware of the implications of describing children as ‘fine’ when in fact they may not be, as this can result in a child or young person being:
  • Less likely to be able to attend school regularly
  • Less likely to be diagnosed or receive treatment and therefore more likely to deteriorate, or beharmed by inappropriate expectations and plans
  • More vulnerable to bullying
  • More vulnerable to deteriorating mental and physical health
  • At risk of further long term difficulties.

Please remember:

Any difficulties are unlikely to go away without reasonable adjustments or specific interventions
Disputing the difficulties denies the child and family access to relevant support, including SEN funding,top up funding, EHCP and ultimately a suitable education.

The Send Code of Practice emphasises the need to listen to, and work with children and their parents. For a child to be ‘fine’ in school their needs must be acknowledged and supported
in line with government guidance and policies.

There also needs to be increased accountability in relation to how schools put guidance and policies into practice. Parents and schools need to work together to make sure schools are adequately funded to do this.

Only then will the many children and young people who are Not Fine in School receive the education they are entitled to, whilst still valuing their right to be healthy , mentally and physically, and allowed to develop, and ultimately achieve their potential.

Proud to be a part of The Place Network

Peer support for Families

Unless you have experienced the extremes of school refusal or attendance difficulties it is hard to understand the situation. The whole family can be affected both on a practical or emotional level. One parent may not be able to continue to go to work. Maybe there are other children who need to get to school by a certain time and are delayed. It can be really hard to see a child expressing their distress responses at not coping with school attendance

Some professionals are at a loss to know how to help. They may try to help with advice based on their understanding or opinions. Really plans should be child led, and evidence based approaches. So many of our parents report being referred onto parenting courses, and or to Early help, only to find that the support they are offered aren’t suitable for these kinds of difficulties. Its important to work with professionals and share recommendations for exploring the issues and in making a plan.

As Parents with lived experience we know that one of the most helpful things for us was to know that we were not alone.  Peer Support is vital.  This is why we have formed Define Fine.  We have a new and growing  private facebook group where we are able to share advice and support, and will be soon be launching our peer support training programme , where we will  share  resources to help our parents to advocate for their children with professionals .