Schools can do a great deal to support a child or young person with cancer. This might include times when they are not in school but continuing to learn in hospital or at home.
It's been a huge success, because the school were acutely aware of their responsibilities and of what help was out there.
Statutory guidance for schools
New statutory guidance for local authorities (May 2013) sets out clearly what schools' responsibilities are for children and young people who are out of school because of medical needs. It says that all local authorities must:
'Arrange suitable full-time education (or as much education as the child's health condition allows) for children of compulsory school age who, because of illness, would otherwise not receive suitable education.'
This is true whatever the type of school and for any child or young person out of school for more than 15 days (consecutively or cumulatively).
Further guidance states that schools should have a policy for supporting children with medical conditions and gives advice on how an individual healthcare plan might be written for some young people.
Supporting a pupil with cancer
- Identify a 'key person', a teacher responsible for liaising with the pupil and their family. This gives the pupils' family one point of contact with the school and other school staff someone to go to for information. The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) may take the lead on this.
- Arrange a meeting with the pupil (if they're old enough) and their parents/carers to establish who in school will do what, and how communication between school and family will be managed. Set meeting dates to review this every six weeks or as appropriate.
Keeping staff informed
- Make appropriate information about childhood cancer available to staff who need to know so they have a good understanding according to their roles and responsibilities. You may be able to arrange for a CLIC Sargent Social Worker or nurse to talk to staff in school. If this isn't possible you may be able to phone.
- Ensure the school has a clear policy for pupils with medical needs that clearly sets-out aims, objectives, actions and outcomes. These should fit in with the statutory guidance.
- Let the local authority or Educational Welfare Officer (if applicable) know if a child or young person is absent for a prolonged period of time for medical reasons. If they are being taught in hospital or at home, they should remain on the school roll. Instead of being marked 'absent' they should be marked as 'educated offsite', or 'dual registered' if they are in a hospital school.
- Ensure the needs of siblings are considered and their teachers are informed of the situation
- Inform staff and other pupils according to the family's wishes, bearing in mind that confidentiality may be an issue.
Planning school work
- Provide suitable work and resources for the child or young person and decide with them/their family how to receive and return work for feedback or marking
- Make sure the child or young person has a login to access online materials they might be expected to use for their work, or details of websites the school subscribes to that they might use for independent work
- Take advice from your local authority about provision for home teaching and how this can be accessed. If home teaching is needed, it's important that it's in place as quickly as possible so that learning can begin and the school and the home tutor can liaise closely
- Draw up a Personal or Individual Education Plan (PEP or IEP) if the young person will have significantly different needs to others in the school, and start an early help assessment, previously the Common Assessment Framework (CAF), if their needs are likely to be complex and prolonged.
Updated December 2015. Next planned review 2017.