Lots of parents find that schoolwork helps to give their child some much-needed structure and consistency while they go through treatment, as well as building their confidence about coping with the return to school.
Why it's important
Encouraging your child to continue with schoolwork isn't just about keeping up with the curriculum. 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. They, or hospital teachers, can also help you keep in touch with your child's school to make sure they know what is happening. Make sure you feel comfortable with 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 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 - with your child, if appropriate - 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
If they want to be there, and it's appropriate, your child 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.
Find more information for young people at college or university.
Equipping the school to best support your child
Your child's school is likely to benefit from our award-winning Cancer and school life pack. It is designed to help teachers communicate confidently with schoolchildren about childhood cancer, as well as help pupils understand the illness and how they can support their classmate. The pack contains:
- A lesson plan
- DVD to show during the lesson
- Guidance notes to help you prepare for and deliver the lesson
- Overview of childhood cancer and treatment
- Factsheet for pupils about childhood cancer and treatment (this can be photocopied)
- List of useful resources.
Many hospitals with a children's cancer ward have a hospital school. 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."
Continuing with school work
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.
The friends your child has at school are very important to them. If your child can't attend school, encourage them to keep in touch by phone, texts, email, FaceTime, 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.
- Why not sit with your child and watch our short videos of other school age children talking about school and friends?
Updated February 2017, next review due February 2018.