Shockingly, more than one in three parents surveyed said their child had been bullied or teased because of the effects of treatment, such as losing their hair or gaining weight from steroid treatment.
More than a third (36%) of parents thought their child did not receive the extra help they needed to keep up with school during their treatment, the research found.
The report by the UK’s leading cancer charity for children and young people into the impact of cancer on children’s primary school education is published today (December 4) during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It identifies a range of challenges in helping children keep up with their education when off school, as well as re-integrating when they return, according to parents, children, hospital schools and CLIC Sargent’s nurses and social workers.
A third of parents surveyed said they were dissatisfied with the support their child received on returning to school in getting back into school life and catching up with their work. Some parents who took part in the survey also reported feeling that their child was let down in a variety of ways:
• One in three families said they were not given any say in how their child’s illness was communicated to other pupils
• A third thought their child’s need for extra help, whether just to catch up or because their ability to learn was impaired because of treatment, had not been properly assessed
• One in five felt their child had been unnecessarily excluded from school trips or activities.
Other problems identified in the report, entitled No Child with Cancer Left Out, included a lack of regular contact between the child’s primary school teachers and their hospital school, with only 36% of parents saying the primary school was regularly in touch.
Another was parents having to fight for home tuition, paid for by local authorities, once their child was back at home, according to some hospital schools. Eighteen hospital schools across the UK took part in the research(1). Two-thirds (62%) of parents surveyed said their child had received home tuition(2), often a vital stepping stone between hospital and getting back to school.
But hospital schools reported a huge variation in local authorities’ approach to providing home tuition, with it sometimes being cut or delayed, which could be down to funding pressures. In some cases, home tuition was not provided at all.
Sadly, nearly half (47%) of parents said their child had grown apart from friends because of their diagnosis and treatment, with friends sometimes not wanting to talk or play any more. The same proportion (47%) said that they felt their child’s school did not help maintain contact with peers and friends when the child was absent.
CLIC Sargent Chief Executive Lorraine Clifton called on government, local authorities and schools across the UK to take note of the research findings and take steps to put in place the support children with cancer need in hospital, at home and at school.
She said: “No child should have to miss out on their education because they’ve had cancer – and it’s distressing to hear that some are teased and even bullied on their return to school.
“Sometimes parents, already struggling to cope with their child’s diagnosis, have to fight to get the help their child needs – and they can feel really let down by the system.
“Funding can be an issue, so we are calling on government and local authorities to ensure children with cancer do not lose out on the home tuition they need because of any more funding pressures in the future.
“Also, it is vital that proposed changes to Special Educational Needs and disability provision(3) take into account the needs of children with cancer so they get any extra help they need at school.”
She added: “The good news is many children do get the support they need when back at school and this report highlights some excellent and innovative work, including helping to keep children in touch with friends and school activities through Skype and social networking, or inviting them into events like assemblies. We want to help ensure this good practice is shared.”
CLIC Sargent will be working to ensure parents and teachers get the information they need to best support children with cancer, and CLIC Sargent nurses and social workers across the UK will continue to help children with cancer and their families access as much support as possible.