Supporting students with health conditions can be challenging but ultimately most educators find the experience very rewarding. The Department of Education and Training Victoria (DET) Curriculum Continuity Policy clearly outlines the roles and responsibilities of schools and educators when a student is unwell.
The school or kindergarten in which the student is enrolled retains responsibility for the student’s curriculum when they are in hospital or recuperating at home.
For students with health needs, schools must:
- ensure continuity and relevance of the education program
- design curriculum that allows delivery and assessment for students who need to transition between hospital, home and school or attend school part-time or episodically
- support the student’s connection to school, including developing and maintaining social networks.
Educators should consult the DET guidance website for more information of how to support students during transition between hospital, home and school.
Individual Education Plan
Educators can help to manage the impact of a health condition or illness by developing an Individual Education Plan. This plan will need to be reviewed at different stages of the student's illness or treatment so that goals and expectations can be adjusted as required.
For more information about individual education plans, please consult the Department of Education and Training website.
Making fair and reasonable adjustments to a student's workload, learning environment, curriculum and attendance will make it possible for the young person to continue their education while managing their health condition. Adjustments may include:
- reduced subject load
- part-time attendance
- exemption from or modified exams and assessments
- reduced homework expectations
- individual or modified learning goals
- ensuring physical access to classrooms and activity spaces
- providing access to online learning materials
- providing access to videos, audio recordings or notes from class
- modifying camps, excursions and activities so that the student can participate
- modifying uniform expectations if required.
Ongoing and effective communication is an important way to keep students engaged and connected to their learning environment.
Develop a communication plan so that educators and school staff know how and when to make to contact with families and students.
- Discuss the most effective and sensitive way to communicate with students and their families about the health condition.
- Establish clear expectations regarding the student's privacy and ensure information is not shared without permission.
- Establish key contact people to manage communication between home, hospital and school.
- Maintain regular and ongoing contact, particularly if the student is away for a long time.
- Aim to minimise the burden of communication on families and students during times of high stress or acute illness.
VCE and senior pathways
With support and encouragement from their school, students can still undertake some or all of their senior studies while managing a health condition. Schools should take steps to ensure students have every chance to succeed in their senior years.
- Develop a team of support people including subject teachers, student support officers, wellbeing staff, VCE or VCAL coordinator and pathway/careers coordinators.
- Meet regularly with the student and their family.
- Discuss the student's strengths, interests and goals for the future.
- Provide extra pathway counselling to help the student make decisions about subjects, courses and future study.
- Give the student options such as; studying VCE over several years, completing subjects though Virtual School Victoria, reducing subject load or completing an unscored VCE.
- Ensure the student has opportunities to engage with peers and include them in special events such as school formals, camps and graduation celebrations.
- Be flexible and willing to change plans as required, remembering that chronic health, illness and treatment can be unpredictable.
- Maintain frequent communication with the student and provide regular feedback on their progress.
- Ensure that the student has access to VCAA special provisions for exams and assessments if they are eligible.
- Support the student with VCAA and VTAC applications and documentation.
- Ensure that the student has access to curriculum materials, resources and academic support from subject teachers.
- Develop a flexible attendance plan if necessary.
Health support plans
A health support plan must be completed for each student with an identified health care need other than anaphylaxis. The plan outlines how the school or education setting will support the student’s health care needs. The plan is completed in consultation with parents/guardians and guided by medical advice.
Consult the Department of Education and Training Health Support Planning guidelines for more information, including guidance regarding the four stages of developing a Student Health Support Plan.
Student support services
Ensure that students with a health condition have access to all of the available student support staff within the school or education setting. Every school has a key contact responsible for potential referrals, consultations or student wellbeing issues so it is worth meeting with them to discuss the student's eligibility. Students and families should be introduced to relevant student support staff and assisted to access these services as required. Student support services can include:
- social workers
- speech therapists
- visiting teachers
- cognitive, language or learning assessments.
Also consider the role that different staff members can play within the school community and include them in the student's support team if appropriate. Additional support people might include:
- school nurse
- chaplains or wellbeing officers
- career and pathway staff
- learning support officers
- student reception and office staff
- curriculum coordinators
Consult the Department of Education's Student Support Services Handbook for more information.
Program for Students with Disabilities
Students may be eligible for the Program for Students with Disabilities (PSD) funding as a result of their illness or health condition. A student's educational needs may have changed or increased when they return to school after a period of illness and treatment in hospital. The Disability Standards for Education 2005 apply to all students with disability, regardless of eligibility under the PSD, and it is essential that effective educational planning and support be undertaken for every student with disability.
The PSD provides funding to assist schools to support eligible students with disability and high needs who attend government schools.
Consult the Department of Education PSD guidelines or your school PSD coordinator for more information.