Stay Sun Safe

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John Dabell

I trained as a primary school teacher 25 years ago, starting my career in London and then I taught in a range of schools in the Midlands. In between teaching jobs, I worked as an Ofsted inspector (no hate mail please!), national in-service provider, project...
Read more about John Dabell

Are your children sun safe and smart?

Fingers crossed, we might enjoy a fair amount of sunshine over the next few weeks and if we do then we need to turn our minds to protecting ourselves from harmful UV rays. Schools have a duty of care to look after pupils and when it comes to sun protection, there is a lot we can do to keep children safe.

The responsibility of protection is a shared one though and children, parents and teachers must all work together to be sun-safe.

Sun Scream

The link between sun exposure and skin cancer risk is well-established and so it is crucial children and parents incorporate a sun protection regime into their everyday lives before school. Parents should apply a SPF 30+ broad spectrum UVA sunscreen to their children’s skin every morning, at least 30 minutes before going outside. Older children should learn to apply sunscreen themselves and make it a habit.

The sun’s UV rays are strongest from 10am to 4pm and this is when children are normally outside for their breaks, P.E. or outdoor learning activities and so schools have a big responsibility.

The Five S’s of Sun Safety

One of the most successful sunscreen campaigns over the last 30 years has been the ‘slip, slap, slop’ programme which all started in Australia by Cancer Council. This has been extended to ‘Slip! Slop! Slap! Seek! Slide!’ and needs to be ingrained in the mindset of us all.

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Five Layers of Protection

1. Slip!

Slip on sun protective clothing that covers as much of your body as possible. Clothing is the most effective form of sun protection so the more skin you cover the better.

2. Slop!

Slop on SPF 30 or higher broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen, at least 20 minutes before sun exposure. Reapply every two hours when outdoors or more often if perspiring or swimming.

3. Slap!

Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears. A legionnaires hat is best because this protects the head and neck more effectively than a baseball cap.

4. Seek!

Seek shade from the sun whenever possible.

5. Slide!

Slide on quality sunglasses as they protect eyes from UV rays, which can lead to cataracts later in life. Look for sunglasses that wrap around and block as close to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays as possible.

Sun Screen

Have you got all bases covered? It’s worth screening for what you have in place already.

There is certainly more slipping, slopping and slapping than ever before but there is definitely room for improvement and especially in relation to seeking and sliding.

Some schools enjoy wonderful protection from the sun with the natural canopy of trees and vegetation. Many have purpose-built canopies in the playground but unbelievably lots don’t. Some playgrounds offer no protection at all from the sun and children playing in these spaces are highly vulnerable. If there is nowhere to hide and get out of the sun then children aren’t being protected. Sun shade is so important or children are going to get burnt.

What Should Schools Do?

Sun Safe Schools recommends that schools implement four steps as part of their duty of care and they offer an accreditation scheme developed by national skin cancer charity; Skcin:

  1. Create a Sun Safety Policy
  2. Communicate with parents
  3. Conduct a whole school assembly
  4. Teach sun safety in class

The scheme is task and evidence based and after completing various activities and demonstrating these, your school can be accredited. They provide heaps of resources to help you get there and so it is a very worthwhile initiative to commit to and share with the whole community. Of course, being sun smart and sun safe also needs to incorporate being well hydrated and drinking plenty of fluids during the day.

Further Help

The World Health Organisation recommend that professional development for school staff should address sun safety policies, practices, and teaching strategies. As teachers we can take advantage of the many free, age-appropriate sun protection programmes available on the internet and feed these into our schools. For example, take a look at the Soltan Sun Ready programme for primary and secondary.

For more information about creating your own sun protection policy then Cancer Research have policy guidelines for nurseries and preschoolsprimary and secondary schools.

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