1. ITV Report

Children with cancer feel left out and left behind

Oliver Roberts was diagnosed with a brain tumour when he was five years old Photo: ITV Tyne Tees

A charity said children with cancer do not receive enough support to keep up with their school work during treatment.

  • More than a third felt their child's needs had not been properly assessed
  • Only a third said the primary school was in regular contact with the hospital
  • More than 1 in 3 said their child had been bullied because of the illness

Many reported their child feeling left out and left behind on their return to school.

Case study: Oliver Roberts, Whickham, Gateshead

Oliver had only been at school for four or five months when he was diagnosed with a brain tumour. He was admitted to hospital immediately and months of chemotherapy and radiotherapy followed.

He went to school whenever he was well enough for a few hours at a time, but he still fell behind. To make the problem worse, the treatment affected his brain function, making it easy for him to forget things he had learnt.

On his return to school, his parents applied for a statement of special educational needs, to set out what extra support Oliver would need. In all, that took two years to put in place.

Karen Roberts said that was too long: "One of the difficulties for parents is that our focus is on his illness, his treatment and getting him through the treatment. But once we get through the treatment, it doesn't end. The worry doesn't end.

"As a parent you really just don't have the energy to start pursuing what looks like a hugely complicated assessment process."

Oliver was never bullied and his family said his school was "superb". However, they want the various agencies involved in setting up the special needs statement, including the local authority, to speed the process up.

They want more help and advocacy for parents trying to navigate through complicated systems - because they say the sooner support is in place for a child, the quicker they can catch up.

Gateshead Council said they assess each case of special needs individually:

"Each case like this is assessed individually taking into account all the relevant clinical advice working with the family, school and other agencies involved.

"As a local authority it is our role to support children and families to enable young people to improve abd reach their potential whatever the circumstances.”

– Martin Grey, Gateshead Council