Some of the key issues that schools may need to deal with include:
- Hair loss
- Weight changes
- Limb amputations
- Change in body image
- Reduced concentration and learning difficulties
- Behavioural changes
Changes in peer relationships
Giving the student the option of wearing a cap inside can assist their return to school. It is very important that all staff, including casual relief teachers are informed of this.
Some of the long-term effects of cancer have the potential to interfere with a student’s ability to process, learn and retain information. It is important for teachers to be aware that students who are survivors of cancer could have long-term side effects, including learning difficulties, resulting from their treatment.
Education advisors at the Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute can provide advice on how to manage key issues relating to education faced by students.
Nominate a School Coordinator
It is recommended that the school nominates a staff member to be the student’s school coordinator. The school coordinator will liaise with others on behalf of the student and family.
Meet with the student and parents regularly to determine their needs and preferences and to monitor progress.
Be aware of any siblings that attend the school and inform relevant staff of the situation.
Treat students like everyone else
The vast majority of students treated for cancer would like most of all to be treated like all the other students and not receive any special or undue attention. Where possible avoid singling out students for special attention.
Contact the Clinical Nurse Coordinator (03) 93455652 and Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute (03) 93225100 These people can liaise with the education advisor and provide information to teachers and classmates. In some cases they are available to visit the school if the parents agree.
A social worker can talk to the students or staff at school or consult by telephone. Special programs for siblings may be available. Enquire at the Royal Children’s Hospital or other treatment centre.
It is important that the school maintains contact with the student through all periods of absence. This includes hospital stays and recovery time at home.
Please Note: This is only a summary of the book “When a student has cancer: A resource for teachers and school communities”, (Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute & Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, 2000).
Link(s) to other useful online resources for schools on strategies in responding to a child/young person with this condition
The book “When a student has cancer: A resource for teachers and school communities”, Royal Children’s Hospital Education Institute & Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria, 2000, can be found online at the RCH website: www.rch.org.au