- Cancer Information
- Schools and teachers
- Cancer in the school community
- Special provisions and access schemes
Special provisions and access schemes
When a student or a student’s family member is diagnosed with cancer, it is likely that the student’s academic performance will be affected. There are a range of special provisions and access schemes available to help.
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Exams in primary school
The National Assessment Program – Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) involves annual tests for students in Years 3, 5, 7 and 9.
Students with cancer may be unwell at the time of the tests, or their cancer treatment may have temporary or permanent effects such as fatigue or learning difficulties. Parents may not be aware that their child can apply for special examination provisions, so the school should raise the issue with them. The student’s treatment centre can provide documentation to support a request for special provisions. For more information, school staff can visit the National Assessment Program, or contact their state or territory test administration authority.
Special provisions may also be available if the student is attempting placement tests for selective classes or schools. Contact your local education authority if you know these tests are coming up.
The senior assessments at the conclusion of secondary schooling are known by different names throughout Australia. In general, all students are required to meet the course requirements, but the relevant education board can adapt assessments to provide reasonable adjustments to the special needs of students with cancer.
The permitted provisions depend on the rules in your state or territory and on each student’s circumstances. For example, some students may be allowed rest breaks between exams or an extension of test time. Other students may need to have physical disabilities accommodated (e.g. by using a scribe, a reader or assistive technology). In particular cases, the student’s marks may be based on their scores throughout the school term/s, rather than the usual combination of in-school assessments and external exams.
If possible, it is preferred that students sit their exams, and then appeal for a different marking procedure. However, if you know a student might be eligible for special provisions for an upcoming exam, talk to the student and their parents about their options.
In most schools, applications for special provisions are made to the education board through the principal, school counsellor or learning support staff. There may be a cut-off date for applications and you may need to allow time to get supporting documentation from the student’s doctor or treatment team. If possible, it is best to apply well in advance, as applications may take several weeks or months to process. For students who become suddenly ill around the time of the exams or who have a family member with cancer, illness or misadventure provisions may be available.
If a student is finding the demands of the senior years too great, they can explore the options for extending the time frame. For information about options available in your state or territory, talk to the senior year coordinator, guidance officer or school principal, or contact your local education authority.
In some states and territories, access schemes can help a student enter tertiary study if they have experienced long-term educational disadvantage because of a cancer diagnosis or treatment. Depending on the location, these are known as Schools Recommendation Schemes (SRS), Educational Access Schemes (EAS) or Special Entry Access Schemes (SEAS). Each university applies its own access scheme calculation to the student’s final score and determines if they will be admitted into their elected program of study.
Visit the website of the universities/tertiary admission centre in your state or territory to find out more about applying for an access scheme. You can also contact the tertiary institutions directly for information about any alternative pathways available to students. The school careers counsellor should also be able to offer guidance.
School staff could explore whether there is any extra financial assistance available for the student, for instance:
- Redkite’s educational assistance includes grants to help students pursue tertiary study after cancer
- Ronald McDonald House Charities Australia’s Charlie Bell Scholarship program provides grants to assist with the cost of vocational or tertiary studies for young people aged 15–20 years who have experienced serious illness.
Download a PDF booklet on this topic.
Claire Tobin, Principal Medical Advisor, Department of Education and Training, VIC; Dr Antoinette Anazodo, Paediatric and Adolescent Oncologist, Sydney Children’s Hospital and Prince of Wales Hospital, Director of The Sydney Youth Cancer Service, and Conjoint Senior Researcher, University of New South Wales, NSW; Lisa Barrow, Clinical Nurse Educator, Children’s Cancer Centre, Royal Children’s Hospital, Melbourne, VIC; Margo Bulic, Psychosocial Support Worker, CanTeen, ACT; Amber Copeland, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council Queensland; Donna Drew, Clinical Nurse Consultant, Paediatric Oncology/Palliative Care, Kids Cancer Centre, Sydney Children’s Hospital, Randwick, NSW; Allesha Fecondo, Education Consultant, Victorian Paediatric Rehabilitation Service, and Education Liaison, Ronald McDonald Learning Program, Ronald McDonald House Charities Australia, VIC; John Friedsam, General Manager of Divisions, CanTeen Australia, NSW; Pina Hutcheson, President, Catholic Primary Principals’ Association of WA; Cara Irvine, Year 8 Coordinator, Alfred Deakin High School, ACT; Andrew Long, Assistant Director, Policy and Research, Independent Schools Council of Australia, ACT; Dr Alistair Lum, Post-doctoral Research Fellow – Behavioural Sciences Unit, Sydney Children’s Hospital, University of New South Wales, NSW; Kristine Luszczynski, Learning Program Manager, Quality and Standards, Ronald McDonald House Charities Australia, NSW; Anita Neville, National Manager, Ronald McDonald Learning Program, Ronald McDonald House Charities Australia, VIC; NSW Department of Education, NSW; Mandy Roney, Consumer; Shannon Rush, Primary School Program Manager, Camp Quality, SA; Luke Wade, Education and Career Support Consultant, Redkite, QLD.
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Coping with cancer?
Speak to a health professional or to someone who has been there, or find a support group or forum
Looking for transport, accommodation or home help?
Practical advice and support during and after treatment
Work and cancer
Information for employees, employers and workplaces dealing with cancer
Answers to common questions about cancer, with links to information on different types of cancer
Explaining cancer words
A glossary of common cancer terms with definitions suitable for young children, older children and teenagers.
View our publications
Guides and fact sheets for people with cancer, their families and friends
Cancer in the School Community – Chapter 3
Click on the link above to download the information on this page as a PDF