If your child has cancer, getting them well is bound to be your main priority. But treatment may last for some time so it's important that your child's education continues as far as possible.
Many parents find that contact with school provides a structure which is reassuring for their child and allows them to keep in touch with their peers - often a big concern for children and young people with cancer.
Telling the school
As soon as your child is diagnosed, their school will need to know. Your CLIC Sargent Social Worker or outreach nurse may be able to contact the school on your behalf. You may prefer to talk to the school yourself, but you could also arrange for a health professional to explain your child's cancer and treatment plan in more detail another time.
Your social worker, outreach nurse and hospital teachers can help you liaise with your child's school to make sure your child maintains their education and the school knows what is happening. Make sure you feel comfortable with all the arrangements for sharing information about your child.
Meeting with your child's school
It's a good idea to arrange an initial meeting between the school, you, your child (if appropriate), your CLIC Sargent Social Worker, outreach nurse and hospital teacher.
You can then set dates for regular reviews with school staff. The frequency of these will depend on your child's progress and if there are any changes to their treatment plan. A short meeting every 6-10 weeks is practical for most schools.
At your first meeting think about:
- Who will be a key contact at the school from now on (one person is best, remember to get their phone number and email)
- Decide how your child will get school work, and how to send it back for marking
- Agree on how you will communicate with the school (email or texts work for some families, others prefer a regular phone call)
- Decide what you want other pupils to be told and other teachers to know
- If your child isn't able to get into school, ask the school about what provision they will make to arrange education at home.
Involving your child in decisions
It's important to include your child in school meetings (if appropriate and they want to be there). They should be part of decision making and feel as much in control of what happens with their education as possible.
Most schools have limited experience of supporting a child or young person with cancer, but they should be sympathetic and supportive.
Many hospitals with a children's cancer ward have a hospital school or a schoolroom. Hospital teachers may be able to contact your child's school to plan for their education. The school can then set work that allows your child to carry on learning whenever they are well enough, supported by hospital teaching staff.
When he's in hospital, his teacher contacts the ward school, so if he's well enough, he doesn't miss anything.
It's important for your child to stay in touch with friends while they're having treatment. If they can't attend school, encourage them to keep in touch by phone, texts, email, Face Time, Skype or social networking sites (if they're old enough).
It can be really helpful to invite friends round before your child returns to school to help prepare both your child and their friends.
More information for seconday school aged children about their social life.
Provided they feel able, encourage your child to do as much school work as they can on days when they feel well enough. Some children feel up to doing school work while they are in hospital having treatment and it can help to pass the time.
Once they are well enough, encourage your child to attend school as much as they can, even if it's just for a short time each day. If your child isn't able to attend school they might continue their education by learning at home.
Find out how your child can get support if doing exams.
I think I've been really lucky with my education, I've been able to stay on at school most of the time and I've also had a hospital teacher.
Updated December 2015. Next planned review 2017.