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.
Learn more about:
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.