By Natalie Wilkie
Every day, 10 children and young people in the UK learn that they have been diagnosed with cancer. Although treatment will normally start immediately, it is often administered at an inconvenient location many miles from home, leaving many young people with little time to keep up with school or catch up with friends.
Subsequent to research carried out earlier this year, a leading UK cancer charity for children and young people, CLIC Sargent, recently published two reports: No child with cancer left out and No teenager with cancer left out. Both reports demonstrated the significant impact cancer could have upon a child’s education, with only 56% of parents feeling that their child had been sufficiently supported through the reintegration process at school, following their completion of treatment.
The study also revealed that cancer could have a profound impact on a child’s relationships, with 35% of parents stating that their child had been subjected to bullying or teasing from their peers, and a further 47% of parents claiming that their child had grown apart from friends, following their cancer diagnosis.
In response to these reports CLIC Sargent is launching a new resource, the Cancer and school life advice pack, which contains a lesson plan for teachers with information about childhood cancer and treatment, as well as guidance on how to deliver the session. An age-appropriate DVD, for either primary or secondary school, will also be available as part of the pack, and features children speaking about their personal experiences of cancer and the reactions of those around them.
To create the advice pack, CLIC Sargent collaborated with schools, parents and children, in order to develop a range of helpful guidance for teachers who face the task of discussing childhood cancer in school.
Headteacher of All Saints CE Primary School in Bishop Stortford, Heidi Otranen, said: “All Saints is proud to have been involved in the development of the Cancer and school life pack. It can be difficult for students to know how to support a friend who is unwell, but this new resource will provide valuable guidance to teachers and pupils alike.”
Dara de Burca, director of services at CLIC Sargent, said: “We know from our research that school communities play a crucial role in ensuring that children with cancer and their families receive the best support possible. This new resource pack is a much needed and important tool for teachers working in a school where a child has been diagnosed with cancer, and is the only one of its kind in the UK.
“CLIC Sargent care professionals go into schools where a child has been diagnosed with cancer to deliver assemblies and help the school ensure the child is receiving the best educational provision possible. We believe that this new pack will work alongside this service, and also help schools that cannot receive a visit from a CLIC Sargent care professional.
“It is incredibly important that children and teenagers with cancer have the support of their friends and classmates. As well as offering support to teachers, the guidance is designed to help reduce the sense of isolation children with cancer may feel by showing pupils how they can be there for their friend at this difficult time.”