Handy Hints

Coming back to school after a long absence, perhaps with a hospital stay, can be difficult for a child. If it's handled badly, he or she may soon be away again.

* Prepare for the return. Talk to the class. Listen to the child and her parents about fears and hopes. Check any special physical needs, such as having to avoid being knocked or bumped.

* Make sure you have contact with the hospital teacherhome tutor.

* Encourage the class to make "welcome back" cards.

* Be warm and welcoming. Avoid any sarcasm and jokes, however well meaning. On the first day,give the child time to meet friends and settle in.

* Identify a couple of children who will help the returner settle in.

* Give proper attention to work done in hospital or at home. Display good work in class.

* Assess progress and be quick to recommend and fight for special needs provision. Identify areas where catching up is vital.

* If the child gets overtired, recommend a modified or shorter timetable.

* Have a regular end-of-the-day talk to the child about progress and be alert to unspoken problems.

Next week: classroom displays

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