Top 5 tips for starting secondary school

Starting secondary school is a big move for any child (and parent!), but particularly so for a young person who is affected by childhood cancer.  

Your child may be a survivor but experiencing long term or late effects from their treatment that could have an impact on their learning and school experience. If your child is currently going through treatment, they may miss a lot of school and opportunities to mix with their peers.  

Of course, siblings are also affected, as they may also miss out on school or have to deal with uncertainty at home and worry for their sibling, all of which may impact on their school experience too – both academically and socially.  

Likewise, if your family has experienced bereavement due to childhood cancer, siblings will be dealing with their grief in different ways at different times, which may impact their school life.   

Here, we bring you some tips that make the transition easier for you and your teenager.  

  1. Communication is key 

Starting and maintaining an open line of communication with your school is essential. We know that you may be glad of an opportunity to move on from being ‘the cancer kid’ – it’s a chance for a new start but telling the school about your child’s history and the lasting effects, if any, as well as any gaps in their education, can help the school understand what your child is dealing with when it comes to learning and supports can be put in place if necessary.  

Outside of any learning support that may be needed, they may be able to offer practical solutions to help if your child is dealing with fatigue or is in treatment and dealing with the challenges that brings.  

The same applies to siblings and siblings who have been bereaved, informing the school allows them to be aware, keep an eye on your child and to help if needed.  

Start by talking to your school principal.  

2. Be gentle in the early months 

Moving to secondary school is a big transition so expect some high emotions in the first couple of months as everyone adjusts. And that’s without adding in impact of childhood cancer on your child. Don’t expect too much in the early months and know that things will improve. It might be worth looking at the after-school schedule and seeing what can be removed, even temporarily.  

3. Stay connected 

Staying connected with education, even if your child can’t be in school all of the time, is really important. Encourage your child to attend school as and when they can as this will help them maintain a relationship with their peers. If they are in hospital and feeling well enough, they can engage with Our Lady’s Hospital School.  

One benefit of homeschooling during Covid is that schools are now well equipped for remote learning, but of course school is not just about learning, it’s about socialising, making friends and other important milestones too.  

4. Colour code to stay organised  

This is a tip that might help any secondary school student, who is suddenly struggling with more subjects, teachers, classrooms and lots and lots of books and hardback copies. Place all books and copies for a subject into a colour zip folder so they just grab the green folder from their locker when it’s time for English. Their timetable can be colour coded to match and stuck inside their locker to help in the beginning. 

5. Watch our webinar 

Find out more in our webinar – Supporting Your Child’s Transition to Secondary School, in which we learn tips from a secondary school principal, a teacher from Our Lady’s Hospital School and parents who have been there themselves.