Your child's education

School is an important part of a child's life. It provides structure, learning, opportunities to develop social and communication skills and offers purpose and a focus on the future.

A diagnosis of cancer and ensuing treatment may mean long absences from school - weeks, maybe months - and this can make it difficult for children to keep up with their work and maintain contact with friends.

A strategy to maintain education whilst undergoing treatment is best planned in consultation with the care team in hospital, your child's teacher(s) and the school's administration.

During Treatment

At times during treatment your child may be too unwell to do schoolwork and will probably miss the camaraderie of friends and the school environment. Here are some tips that may help during this time. The hospital has a teacher on staff who can arrange for schoolwork to be sent to the hospital and will help your child work on lessons.

  • Depending upon your child's education stage, it may be important for them to do some work every day, if they can, so they do not fall too far behind.
  • Consult with your child's teacher(s) at school and hospital staff (teacher and Social Worker) to determine your child's needs and develop an action plan
  • Encouraging classmates to write letters, postcards, send text messages or post on Facebook can really cheer up your child and keep them up to date with what is happening at school. 

Returning to School

When treatment is finished (and perhaps during treatment too), your child will be able to attend school. The prospect of returning to school can be exciting (seeing friends again) but also daunting for your child. They may have concerns about the way they look (while hair grows back), whether friends have forgotten them or if they can catch up with schoolwork and fit in again.

Most parents will have real concerns about the return to school because it is natural to want to protect our children from harm or hurt. Will my child be up to it physically? What about the risk of infection when my child's immune system is still recovering? Will my child be teased because of the way they look?

You may need some help from your care team to move forward here because part of your child's recovery from cancer and you and your family's too is to find a routine again so you can all resume activities that may have been put on hold. Here are some tips that may be helpful:

  • Consult with your child's teacher(s) about the return to school, discuss what has happened to your child and provide information to help them support your child at school (the hospital Social Worker can provide resources). It helps if teachers understand the treatment your child has received and side effects that may affect them at school
  • If your child cannot return to school full time, send them along for a few hours a day or even just to enjoy lunchtime with friends. This will ease them back into the routine and help friends adjust too
  • Ask your child's friends to be supportive and to stay close
  • Make the school aware of needs your child may have, for example, they may want to wear a hat or bandanna for a while, or be unable to participate in sports activities for a period of time
  • Be sure teachers are keeping an eye out for physical or emotional issues that may develop upon a return to school 
  • Ask a Dean or member of staff to be available for your child, should they need to talk to someone at school