Returning to education

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

Try to explore all the options. For example, if you were studying at school when you became ill then you may be allowed to take resits, depending on how far you’d progressed with your course, or you might decide to attend your local college instead to finish your qualifications. The same flexibility can also apply at university, so it’s always worth exploring your options.

Dealing with anxiety

You’re bound to feel anxious about going back if you’ve had time away. To make this easier, here are a few tips:

  • Speak to someone about any worries you have. They can give you support and help you prepare.
  • Think about going in part-time or for a few lessons each week, gradually building up your hours over time.
  • Propose practical things that will make life easier, such as recording lessons or lectures or clearing things so you can leave if necessary without having to ask.
  • Consider letting teachers, lecturers or other students, know about your situation. Telling them beforehand may help to avoid awkward situations, such as explaining why you need to leave early.
  • Because your energy may be low, ask for a locker or somewhere you can leave stuff you’d normally carry.
  • Have a look at benefits for students to ensure you’ve got all the financial help you need.
  • Stay in touch with friends throughout your treatment to help make your return to education easier.

Get an assessment of your needs

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 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.

Help with extra study costs

If you return to study at university or at degree level, you may be able to apply for Disabled Students' Allowances (DSAs) to pay towards extra cancer-related study costs. These could include speech-to-text software and computer equipment, or help with travel costs if you need to use taxis rather than public transport.

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 to 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 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 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.

Where next?

Updated January 2018, next review due 2019.