Missing school when your student has cancer

Missing school when your student has cancer

There are many reasons why your student with cancer could have to miss school.

Key points to remember

  • children having cancer treatment are more at risk of developing fevers and infections
  • help your student's family/whānau to understand the benefits of their child being back in a learning environment
  • talk to parents about their concerns and discuss what the school can do to help
  • children who have finished treatment will still have regular hospital appointments that need time away from school

Why might my student with cancer have to miss school?

This is part of a whole section on education when a child has cancer for teachers. We also have a section for parents.

There are many reasons why your student with cancer could miss school. Some children may need to spend long periods in hospital while others can have treatment as outpatients. The amount of time they spend away will depend on the type of cancer and treatment they are receiving.

Due to the effects of treatment on the infection-fighting (immune) system, children having treatment are more at risk of developing fevers and infections. Sometimes they may need to go to hospital to receive antibiotics to help them fight an infection.

Addressing parents' concerns

It is understandable that parents will worry about the risk of infection and injury at your early education service/school and will want to protect their child and keep them safe and happy.

"Everyone made sure I didn't feel pressured to be at school and that I could stay at home if I needed to". Teri.

During cancer treatment, parents will spend more time with their child than usual. As a result, they may feel some anxiety about their child returning to school.

Help your student's family/whānau to understand the benefits of their child being back in the learning environment. Talk to them about their concerns and discuss what the school can do to help. Make sure you acknowledge and understand their concerns.

Try to come up with practical and flexible solutions to address their concerns. Ask your student's parents to put you in touch with members of their child's healthcare team or other support providers if you need extra advice or information.

Managing students who are struggling

It is hard to tell a student who has cancer that they have not achieved an assessment. Feelings like "The poor child and family have been through so much already" are likely to surface for teachers.

Keep in mind that the majority of young people do survive cancer and have a normal life expectancy. The aim for every child returning to school after a cancer diagnosis is that they will get the right help to reach their full potential.

It is important to remember that when your student is well and are functioning 'normally' again, their progress will need careful monitoring.

Although there is no sure, fast rule in these scenarios, it is important that you talk with parents and potentially the healthcare team when facing difficult decisions about academic performance and planning.

If appropriate, talk with your student's family/whānau about whether they are well enough to email in homework or do modules online.

The pages in the childhood cancer and education section of this website have been developed in collaboration with the National Child Cancer Network (NZ), and the Ministry of Education. Content has been approved by the National Child Cancer Network (NZ).

This page last reviewed 20 August 2018.
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