How to support a child facing cancer at primary school


School can be a really challenging place for a child who is impacted by cancer, whether due to their own diagnosis, or the diagnosis of a sibling, parent or carer.

In what should be a safe and supportive environment for a child, people at school may not know what to say or how to help. This can lead to feelings of isolation and cause school refusal. Sadly, misconceptions about cancer can also cause bullying and exclusion by other children.

Did you know that if you choose to disclose a diagnosis to your child’s school, they can assist you by appointing a member of staff, such as a class teacher, to act as a sole point of contact between you and the school? This can help you avoid having to repeat yourself to staff and other parents and give your child a much-needed source of support.

The school can also integrate cancer education into its curriculum. This encourages conversations and understanding about what cancer is, as well as its treatments and side-effects. Cancer education in primary school can also help students know what to say to a diagnosed classmate and how to be a good friend. This creates an inclusive environment for children returning to school after their own treatment, or navigating the emotions associated with experiencing a loved one deal with cancer.

Cancer education in primary schools

Camp Quality’s Primary School Cancer Education Program (PSCEP) has been designed for this purpose. The free program, which is presented by the Camp Quality Puppets, has been visiting schools across Australia for decades. The puppet show dispels myths (you can’t catch cancer from someone else!) and answers common questions children have about cancer in an open and friendly environment.

An independent report, conducted by KPMG, found that children facing cancer who had seen the PSCEP show had fewer school absences due to bullying, experienced better mental health, improved their future learning power, and increased their parents’ productivity (through fewer missed workdays).

If you are interested in the Camp Quality Puppets visiting your child’s school you can book through the Camp Quality website. Alternatively you can invite your school to book the program on your behalf by asking them to call Camp Quality on 1300 662 267.

Resources to share with your school

Camp Quality have developed several educational resources to enable your school to better support a child facing cancer. These are available to request on the Camp Quality website. You may wish to share these with your child’s class teacher or the school principal so they have the tools to confidently talk about cancer in the school community.

The pack includes:

  • Teacher lesson plans that are aligned with the Early Years Learning Framework, Australian Curriculum, and individual state-based curriculums
  • Classroom activity worksheets
  • Talking About Cancer booklet

For further information on cancer or treatment, your school can contact the Cancer Council on 13 11 20.

For a full list of Parenting through Cancer resources click here
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