Every year, around 1,500 young people aged 5-19 are diagnosed with cancer in England.1 A cancer diagnosis is a devastating moment for any young person. But it shouldn’t have to mean losing years of education, leaving ambitions unfulfilled. We say that young people diagnosed with cancer must be supported to reach their full potential.
The Government has the chance to step up – and ensure that a cancer diagnosis isn’t the end of the road for young people’s dreams Many will suffer worse educational outcomes than their peers due to prolonged absence from school and the ongoing effects of treatment. Within the current system of support for Special Educational Needs and Disability (SEND) pupils, Education, Health and Care Plans (EHCPs) can be an effective tool for providing tailored support.
Unfortunately, the application process can take months, reducing the speed of intervention at a critical time. Timely action can be particularly vital for those facing important examinations. Moreover, these young people rely on a patchy and unequal system of support – effectively a postcode lottery. We are committed to ensuring that all young people diagnosed with cancer have equal access to the highest levels of educational support during an incredibly challenging time in their lives. At present, “young people and their parents can only ask for an EHC needs assessment if the child or young person has, or may have SEN – it does not apply where there are only health or social care needs.”2 Furthermore, if a local authority (“LA”) is requested to carry out an EHC needs assessment by a parent, young person, school, or college, they must consider:
- Whether the child or young person has or may have special educational needs (“SEN”); and
- Whether they may need special educational provision to be made through an EHCP.
We call on the UK Government to:
- Commission an independent review into the impact of treatment(s) for cancer on a young person or child’s educational attainment and developmental requirements.
- Amend, in the interim period, the SEND code of practice to include the following: “The local authority must consider the special educational needs of the child or young person within 28 days of a referral from a GP following: (a) diagnosis of cancer, and (b) planned treatment resulting in a minimum 14 days’ absence from their education.”
- Consider the provision of an EHCP for young cancer sufferers in statutory education.