If treatment fails

Although eight in 10 will survive cancer, sadly some children and young people do not survive.

Sometimes, even though a pupil is not going to get better, they or their parents might want them to continue going to school. Doing everyday, ordinary things at this time can help the pupil and their siblings and parents cope with the situation.

When a child or young person dies from cancer it can have a profound effect on the other pupils in the school. For many, this will be the first time someone they know has died. They may be very upset or distressed, they may also be confused, angry and anxious about their own health.

Teachers will also be affected. Their own experiences and how close they were to the pupil will affect their response.

Here are some things for your school to consider:

While the pupil is at school

  • Accommodate the needs and wishes of the pupil and their family through careful planning and communication
  • Enable the pupil to attend school on a part-time or social basis, if this is what the pupil and their family want
  • Ensure, with the pupil or parent’s permission, that contact is maintained through brief visits where possible, cards and letters, texts, emails or social networking sites
  • Identify a member of staff to keep in touch with the family and to be responsible for coordinating information and support.

If the child or young person dies

  • Understand and support pupils and teachers who are grieving. Continue with routine as much as possible.
  • Provide opportunities for staff and pupils to remember their classmate, such as attending the funeral, having a special assembly in the school or creating a memory book – either to keep or to give to the family as a gift of their child’s school life
  • Answer any questions from pupils
  • Make contact with professionals who will be able to support the school and offer advice and counselling. Talking to someone familiar at school is also often a good approach.
  • Consider setting up support for staff as well as pupils. This can be done by telephone or email as well as in person.

Updated December 2015. Next planned review 2017.