Every year about 800 children are diagnosed with cancer in Australia, with a further 5600 children continuing to receive treatment. Due to the demanding treatment of cancer, children often require a longer period of recovery, during which they cannot attend school, sometimes for up to two years.
Back on Track is a program dedicated to educating kids with cancer who are unable to attend school. This program is implemented by the Children’s Hospital Education Research Institute and Fight Cancer Foundation.
In late 2016, Back on Track teacher Trish Donovan approached Firefly Education to see if it could support the program’s involvement with the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network. Firefly was only too happy to help.
Firefly Education caught up with Trish to discuss Back on Track’s amazing work and how her students are progressing.
What is the aim of Back on Track?
The aim of the program is to keep students who have been diagnosed with cancer educationally and socially connected with their school and peers. Our education program coordinators, who are all experienced school teachers, work with students from the time of diagnosis until they return to school.
Describe the importance and impact education has for children at the hospital.
Children with cancer receive much of their treatment as outpatients, with a significant recovery period at home. They often feel isolated, lonely, depressed and disconnected, and worry about their schoolwork and falling behind, so it is essential that children’s educational needs are met.
Programs like Back on Track aim to keep students connected with their education and peers while they are absent from school.
Why did Firefly come to mind to supply the educational resources for the cause?
I first heard about Firefly at my previous school when one of Firefly’s consultants, Ben Thomson, provided an in-service to the staff about the benefits of Sound Waves. Then, while working for Back on Track, there was a child at the hospital who was progressing through his Sound Waves book while undergoing treatment. I was reminded of the strengths of the spelling program and how my students would benefit.
I contacted Firefly, who were very eager to support us. Their consultant, Ben, came to meet with the team of teachers at Randwick and Westmead hospitals to demonstrate the full potential of the various programs offered. For example, as the programs are also digital, our students can access them even when they find themselves in hospital unexpectedly without their books.
Why do you as a teacher like using Firefly programs as part of Back on Track?
The Sound Waves Student Chart with Sound Boxes is a great hands-on resource that gives the students direction when accessing Sound Waves Online. The workbook introduces many of the spelling rules students may have missed out on before participating in the program.
The iMaths Investigations engage students with interesting activities that they otherwise would have missed out on by not being in class. The design of the student workbook is colourful and contains the right amount of visual and written material to engage students and help them achieve the intended outcome.
English Stars is an excellent resource, covering many elements of the English language, including comprehension and grammar.
Writing Time has been happily accepted by our students. It has benefitted many, including a Year 1 girl who wasn’t forming her letters correctly and a Year 5 student who missed last year when cursive writing was being taught.
What kind of response have you had from parents through the Back on Track program?
I have found that Firefly Education resources provide parents and students with a selection of sequential programs that can easily be followed at home.
A mother of a Year 5 student currently completing school work while recovering at home said: ‘As an untrained person, these programs give me the knowledge to work with my son. The way it is presented is an inspiration to make him want to learn.’
Want to help out?
Back on Track is doing wonderful things for children with cancer. Here are some of the ways you can contribute to this worthy cause:
- Learn more about Back on Track via the Children’s Hospital Education Research Institute and Fight Cancer Foundation websites, and share their cause on social media.
- Get involved by donating, fundraising, sponsoring, volunteering or more – the ways you can support the Children’s Hospital Education Research Institute and the Fight Cancer Foundation are endless. Check out their websites for inspiration.