Education Institute

Returning to school or kindergarten

  • Getting back to school or kindergarten can be an exciting but daunting time for students and their families. Work with your educational setting to ensure your child is supported during their transition back to the classroom. 

    Gradual return 

    Full time attendance may be hard to cope with after an illness or extended absence. Students often notice both physical and cognitive fatigue for several weeks or months after their treatment ends. Negotiate a timetable that works for your child and their school or kindergarten and ensure everyone has a copy. 

    • Start with half-days or reduced hours in the first few weeks. 
    • Monitor your child's fatigue and discuss coping strategies with your school or kindergarten staff.
    • Ensure your child's timetable allows time for socialising as well as classes.
    • Investigate transport options and try to minimise travel time to and from school or kindergarten. 

    Return to school plan

    A return to school plan can help with the student’s reintegration into school. It is prepared by the school with involvement from the student, their family and the health care team.

    The plan can outline agreed expectations about attendance and schoolwork, any additional support the student requires, and what the school can do to support the student.  When developing the return to school plan consider modifications and reasonable adjustments such as changes to uniform, curriculum, timetable or school buildings.  This modification tool provides suggestions to incorporate when developing a return to school plan.

    Ask your school to ensure all of your child's teachers are familiar with the return to school plan before they return. 

    Student Health Support Plan 

    Before returning to school or kindergarten, provide teaching and wellbeing staff with recent information about your child's health condition and medications. Ensure that emergency contact details are up to date. 

    Work with your education setting and medical team to complete a Student Health Support Plan.

    Your school or kindergarten may ask for medical documentation and other forms to be provided. Sharing information with your school or kindergarten in a timely manner will help to keep your child safe and supported when they return. 

    Health support planning forms can be accessed via the Department of Education website or directly from wellbeing staff at your school or kindergarten.  

    Ongoing appointments 

    Tell your child's teachers about upcoming appointments and treatments that may continue to cause interruptions after they return to school. 

    If your child is old enough, encourage them to communicate directly with their teachers about planned absences and to collect work that they miss while they are away. 

    Fitting in 

    Many young people face fears and worries about returning to their usual learning environment after an illness or extended absence. 

    It is important for teaching staff and parents to be aware of these worries and check in regularly with the student to see how they are coping. 

    Challenges that students may face when they return to school or kindergarten could include:

    • changes to friendship groups and peer dynamics
    • being the centre-of-attention and/or different to other students 
    • being unable to keep up with sport, games and physical activity in the playground at lunch-time 
    • feeling self-conscious about changes to appearance such as hair-loss, changes in weight or physical disability 
    • worrying about their physical safety and becoming sick or injured again 
    • keeping up in the classroom and managing homework  
    • feeling unsure about how to respond to questions from staff and peers about their illness or absence 
    • dealing with bullying, teasing, isolation or conflict 
    • repeating a grade and adjusting to a new year level or peer group.

    Help to make the transition less overwhelming for students by: 

    • fostering friendships and communication with peers throughout treatment
    • arranging catch-ups with friends before returning to school
    • involving your child in return to school planning
    • minimising academic pressure and homework expectations to allow time for rest
    • providing structure and routine and encouraging good organisation skills 
    • providing encouragement and reassurance
    • providing extra wellbeing, academic and practical supports
    • preparing and rehearsing responses to questions about health, appearance and absence from school
    • identifying key support people and how to access them at school
    • asking schools to remind staff and students about your child's right to privacy
    • being aware of the possibility of bullying and teasing at school or via social media.