Invercargill teen Sam Small was diagnosed with leukaemia when he was 2 and has spent more time in a Southland Hospital room than in school. However, a lifetime outside a traditional classroom has not dulled his desire to learn. Sam, now 15, is one of 20 Southland pupils enrolled in the Southern Regional Health School, a state school funded by the Government. It allows Sam and the other pupils to learn in the hospital or at home and at a pace that takes into account their health. Teacher Ruth Soper has been working with Sam for five years and joked with him yesterday about their camaraderie formed during that time. Their relationship was a typical teacher-student dynamic of discipline mixed with incentive. Sam was partial to maths, he said. He was not too keen on reading, though Ms Soper said that had not stopped them from reading The Hobbit together and working their way through a short story series. She met up with Sam two to three times a week for an hour at a time, either at the hospital or at home, and also made herself available for video-conferencing. Liaison manager Angela Botherway said there needed to be more awareness of the regional health school for pupils who were either in hospital, recuperating or rehabilitating for more than 10 school days, or had more than 40 days of absence from school because of a health problem. The school was also open to pupils who have had, or are likely to have more than six hospital admissions in a year and whose health needs had been verified by a doctor. At present there were two teachers working in Invercargill through the health school, she said. The aim was to keep up pupils' learning during their illness and help them go back to full-time education as quickly as possible. Sam's father, Barry Small, said his son had had his entire education through the school and it had worked out well for the family. "He has outdone our expectations there."