What it’s like to start the school year in hospital

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How hospital school worksIt is a legal requirement that each student admitted to hospital attends school.Students who attend SCHS have a shared enrolment between their census school and hospital school.Each student is assigned a case manager (teacher).Students can attend classes or have a ward teaching service when required.The school works with medical personnel to create a personalised educational and health plan. Rather than walking through the gates of Gymea Technology High School in Sydney’s south this week, Olivia has instead started the year at the Sydney Children’s Hospital School in Randwick.”I’ve been coming here since I was in year one,” she said.”I have constant lung infections which bring me back into hospital, to bring back up my lung capacity.”Olivia was born with cystic fibrosis — a lifelong condition that affects the respiratory, digestive and reproductive systems.She is hospitalised at least four times a year for up to three weeks at a time. (ABC Radio Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
“I definitely find it hard,” the 17-year-old said.”It is a bit stressful at times, because when you go back you’re either behind or you’ve caught up with everyone so you go back like nothing has ever happened.”On a typical hospital day, Olivia spends the morning with doctors and attends physiotherapy sessions, before attending class for a few hours in the afternoon.Some days though, when there are multiple students with cystic fibrosis, she has to be isolated to avoid any risk of infection and taught one-on-one at her bedside.Coordinating health and educationThere are 10 hospital schools in New South Wales, including the children’s hospital schools in Westmead, Bankstown, Royal Prince Alfred, St George and Liverpool.The hospital school at Randwick enrols approximately 1,200 students a year, ranging from kindergarten to year 12.There are three teaching classrooms for primary, high school and adolescent mental health patients. it’s a lot better than hospital food!” (ABC Radio Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
One of the objectives of the Sydney Children’s Hospital School is to create some “continuity and normality for hospitalised students”.For Olivia, this week that has meant working on her biology assignment, which involves dissecting a sheep’s brain and learning about measuring gasses in the blood — a process she is more than familiar with.She also hopes to find time to get into the hospital school kitchen to practice cooking for her favourite subject, hospitality.”I like cooking casseroles and little salads,” she said.”It’s good to take up some food back to my room … (ABC Radio Sydney: Amanda Hoh)
Principal Lynda Campbell said the school’s seven teachers are responsible for working with the medical teams, connecting with the student’s census school teachers and helping them transition back once they leave hospital.”These teachers have a passion for these kids and a huge empathy to make sure these kids get the education they need,” Ms Campbell said.”They have to navigate around a health plan, navigate what a young person’s needs are, and put all that into the one [educational plan] and look after themselves as well.”When you’re working daily with a student one-on-one who is going through a lot of complexities, there’s a different level of teacher-student relationship.”No ease on homeworkOlivia said she was determined to complete her HSC this year, rather than take up the option of spreading it over two years via the Department of Education’s Pathways program.”It’s kind of a battle with catching up, but my teachers are very supportive,” she said.”I also have dyslexia, so a disability when it comes to reading, so I’m a bit slower catching on.”I just want to get my schooling out of the way … and next year I can just concentrate on my health.”

Olivia says she is considering a career in the hospitality industry. Photo:
The Sydney Children’s Hospital School caters for students in kindergarten to year 12. With nimble and sturdy fingers, Olivia Wood smooths glittery purple contact over her new school books with the aid of a sharp ruler.The technique — passed down by her sister — may be a familiar one among most HSC students, although the classroom in which Olivia sits in comes with some extras.There is a small library, a science wall and computers around the room, but also extension power cords that hang from the ceiling and plug into Olivia’s intravenous drip. Photo:
Rosemary Kingsford has been Olivia’s hospital teacher and case manager for 12 years.
ABC Radio Sydney


Amanda Hoh


February 02, 2017 11:29:32

Video: Olivia's typical day in hospital

(ABC News)
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