Information for teachers on how to support a child or young person with cancer

Information and resources on how schools and teachers can support a child or young person with cancer, including how to fit education around their needs and minimise isolation from school and friendships.

Information for teachers on how to support a child or young person with cancer

Falling behind with schoolwork and losing touch with school friends is often a big concern for children and young people diagnosed with cancer. Although their health needs to be the main priority, enabling them to continue developing and learning during their treatment is also vital.

Your school can help a child or young person get the best education fitted around their needs, and minimise isolation from school and friendships.

Education can continue at school, home, hospital or online. A Personal Education Plan can help coordinate arrangements between school staff, the pupil and family as treatment progresses.

No two experiences are ever the same

Treatment for cancer can last a short or a long time (typically anything from six months to three years), so a child or young person may have periods out of school, some planned (for treatment) others unplanned (for example, due to acquired infections).

When they return to school your pupil may have physical differences due to treatment side effects. These can include:

  • Hair loss
  • Weight gain/loss
  • Increased tiredness

There may also be longer-term effects such as being less able to grasp concepts and retain ideas, or they may be coping with the effects of surgery.

The emotional and psychological impact

Treatment for cancer can also have an emotional and psychological impact. Children and young people may find it more difficult to cope with learning, returning to school and relationships with other pupils. They may have spent more time in adult company, having more adult-like conversations than is usual, gaining new life experiences and maturing beyond their peers.

As a teacher, you can help and support your pupil and their family and friends, both during treatment and in the months and years to follow.

"I actually really like school and the fact that I had to put my education on the back-burner made me feel really frustrated."

Cancer and school life pack

Our award-winning Cancer and school life pack has been developed specifically for schools where a child or young person has been diagnosed with cancer. 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.

You can order a free pack by visiting our Publications Library.

Our new Outreach Information Resource

Developed in partnership with Children's Cancer and Leukaemia Group (CCLG), CLIC Sargent's Outreach Information Resource has been created to help inform professionals supporting a child with cancer. 

The online tool provides bite-sized, easy-to-read information on a wide range of topics that are relevant for a child with cancer and their family. The guide can also be used to support professionals coming into hospital cancer services for the first time in their career and who need foundation level information to support their education.

More publications for teachers

CLIC Sargent produces a range of resources to designed to help you talk to pupils about childhood cancer and how they can support a classmate who has been diagnosed. Visit our Publications Library to order or download resources for free.

Updated December 2015. Next planned review 2017.