Returning to education

It's your choice when you return to education. But when you do feel ready, you will need to speak to your place of education about what you'd like to do.

If you were studying GCSEs, A-levels or Scottish Highers at school when you became ill, you may decide to attend your local college to finish them, rather than returning to school. Alternatively, you may be allowed to take resits, depending on how far you'd progressed with your course.

If you were studying at college or university, you'll also have different options regarding where you pick up your education from and whether you take any resits. You may be surprised by what's available to you.

Getting an assessment of your needs

Some young people can benefit from an assessment of their needs when they return to education.

In England, local authorities are responsible for assessing young people with learning difficulties or disabilities who continue their education after leaving school. This is called an Education, Health and Care (EHC) assessment, and is used for students who are likely to need extra support. It should bring together information from medical, social care and education professionals and make clear what course or training you'd prefer to do.

The assessment can then help colleges and training providers to provide the support you need to continue with your education. Speak to your local authority to see if they can provide you with this type of assessment.

In Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland you should be able to get help from your local careers service. They will help you make a plan for returning to education following your treatment.

Wherever you live, if you’re already at college or university, your education provider should carry out its own needs assessment when you return to study.

Disabled Students' Allowances

If you return to study in higher education, you may be able to apply for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) to pay towards extra cancer-related study costs. These could include specialist equipment such as a digital recorder for taking notes or recording lectures, or help with travel costs if you need to use taxis rather than public transport. 

The rules can be different depending on the year you began your course. How much you get depends on your needs assessment, rather than your or your family’s income.

If you have a CLIC Sargent Young People's Social Worker or Community Worker, speak to them about how to apply for DSAs. Or contact our welfare advice service on 0800 915 4439 or

What are my rights regarding support in education?

Under the Equality Act 2010, schools, colleges and universities have to make ‘reasonable adjustments’ so that you are not disadvantaged. You are entitled to get the support you need to continue with your education and fulfil your potential.

These adjustments could include flexibility with attendance during treatment, help with taking notes if tiredness is an issue, or being given extra time to complete an exam.

In Northern Ireland you have similar rights under the Special Educational Needs and Disability Order (SENDO).

The Special Educational Needs Coordinator (SENCO) at your school, or the learning support adviser or disability adviser at your college or university can help to identify adjustments. This is something your care team can also help you with by contacting your place of education or talking to you about what potential adjustments may be helpful.

Content last reviewed: November 2015
Next planned review: 2016