Back2School - A Psychological Intervention

against Problematic School Absenteeism

School absenteeism is a big problem internationally as well as in Denmark. High absenteeism can cause poor grades, increased risk of dropping out of the educational system, and social and work-related problems in adulthood. A few days of absenteeism are not problematic for the child’s schooling; however, for a group of children the absenteeism becomes so extensive that it has a negative impact on the child’s schooling and in later life.

Children with serious absenteeism often have psychological problems such as anxiety, depression and behavioral disorders. Both nationally and internationally, there is a lack of systematic, methodical strong trials of psychological interventions focusing on problematic school absenteeism. The challenge is to develop an intervention that can hold the very diverse group of children, which children with high absenteeism are.

Therefore the intervention Back2School is developed and tested with the purpose of examining whether a systematic effort can reduce the school absenteeism among children with attention-demanding school absenteeism and help the children to get a life with regular school attendance.

Time period:

2016 – 2020

Target group:

Pupils in the 1st-9th grade with attention-demanding school absenteeism – assessed by Aarhus Municipality’s definitions.

Number of participants:

About 160 pupils with attention-demanding school absenteeism in Aarhus Municipality   


Merely in Aarhus Municipality, over 850 pupils aged 5 to 16 years were absent from school in more than 15 % of the school days in the schoolyear of 2010/11, equaling 30 schooldays in a year. These children lose almost an entire day in school every week and have difficulties being part of the learning community at school. The intervention Back2School is developed and tested, before being tried in a randomized controlled trial. Back2School is based on a curriculum and consists of up to eight sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy combined with a close cooperation with the child’s school.

The intervention is carried out by psychologists from the Pedagogic Psychologic Counseling in Aarhus Municipality, and by clinicians from The Anxiety Disorder Clinic for Children and Adolescents at the Department of Psychology, Aarhus University. The project is funded in cooperation with the Innovation Fund Denmark.


The effects of the psychological intervention are evaluated in a randomized controlled trial, in which the randomization is carried out on an individual level. The primary aim is to examine, if the intervention can reduce the children’s school absenteeism to a normal level. A second goal consists in comparing Bach2School with Aarhus Municipality’s current efforts with regard to children with attention-demanding school absenteeism.

For the test, public schools in Aarhus Municipality will refer families, who have a child with attention-demanding absenteeism, if the child is suitable for the psychological intervention – based on the school’s assessment.

Through the randomization, half of the pupils will be offered the Back2School intervention. The other half are offered Aarhus Municipality’s existing treatment. By draw between the participants and following them during a period, possible effects can be ascribed to the program.


Aarhus Municipality and Innovation Fund Denmark.


Are expected in 2019.


No publications.


Back2School is one of three school absenteeism projects at TrygFonden's Center for Child Research. See also A Study of School Absenteeism and School Absenteeism Interventions - A Litterature Review.

About Back2School on Innovation Fund Denmark's Website (in Danish).