Learn about: skin cancer, being SunSmart, and how to incorporate sun protection strategies into your day to day activities.

Generation SunSmart

WA // Caps off (and bucket hats on) to O’Connor Primary School

O’Connor Primary School in Kalgoorlie has turned from students predominately wearing caps to the whole school embracing a sun protective hat in just a few months. With a school population of 776 students, it was achieved with team effort, whole school support and enthusiasm. O’Connor PS joined the SunSmart Schools Program in Term 1 2016.

Identifying the issue

The process of becoming a SunSmart School was driven by junior sport specialist teacher Mr Ashley Sims. Prior to becoming a SunSmart School, it was identified that the biggest challenge to ensuring students were better protected from UV radiation was wearing the correct sun protective hats. Most of the students wore caps, with a survey of students in term 3 2015 finding that only 28% wore sun protective hats. As a result, the school was keen to implement a bucket hat and encourage all children to wear it. It was understood that the staff, students and parents would have to work together to turn this around.

Finding solutions

As a starting point, teachers were encouraged to be role models and wear a bucket hat which were sourced by Mr Sims and proved to be very popular.

“The teachers were very keen to wear the bucket hats and I soon had other teachers asking for the hats. This is a great thing that I didn’t want to deter.”

In October 2015 a SunSmart Committee was formed comprising of teachers from each phase, the Principal and Cancer Council WA’s Regional Education for the Goldfields, Pam Foulkes-Taylor. The committee drafted a sun protection policy and worked to get sun protective practices more entrenched in the school and supported by the whole school community.

The P&C agreed to introduce a new reversible bucket hat that showed the school colours on one side, and each faction colour on the other. The P&C also agreed to subsidise the new hat to only cost students $4 each. In addition, in 2016 they provided every Kindy and Pre-Primary student with a free hat, and from 2017, all Kindy students will receive a free hat courtesy of the P&C. This is approximately 100 hats each year!

Students were provided incentives for wearing the correct school hat, with particular focus on the school student leaders role modelling for younger students to make it ‘cool’ to wear a bucket hat

In addition, the school provided a 1L sunscreen bottle to go into each of the 31 classrooms. A local supplier for the sunscreen was found through a parent.

By the start of 2016, about 80% of students were wearing the school bucket hats, with a ‘no SunSmart hat, play in the undercover area’ rule implemented. Further promotion was done by Mr Sims through a colouring in and poster competition.

By the third week of term 1, 95% of students were wearing the school bucket hat. At this point, O’Connor Primary School officially became a SunSmart school with a launch on assembly.

Mr Sims said the students, staff and parents worked together to ensure their school is SunSmart. “Our SunSmart School will contribute to the fight against skin cancer by teaching students how to protect themselves from the sun and thus reducing their risk of skin cancer”.

 Strategies to increase sun protection

  • The school administration, staff and P&C supported the need to improve sun protection
  • Several school staff completed the Generation SunSmart learning modules
  • A new school bucket hat was introduced to replace the caps previously worn by students. The new hat has been well received by students, teachers and parents with just about all of the 800 students wearing one
  • Teachers were provided with bucket hats to role model the correct behaviours to students
  • Students were provided with incentives and rewards for wearing the correct hat
  • A new ‘no SunSmart hat, play in the undercover area’ rule was implemented
  • Sunscreen was purchased for in every classroom, as well as in key locations in the school
  • A poster/colouring in competition was held to build excitement and interest
  • Teachers were surveyed at regular intervals to establish how many students were wearing the new bucket hats
  • Newsletter items and announcements on assemblies
  • Information added to the school website
  • Sun protective clothing is part of the school uniform
  • A committed group of school staff formed a committee to drive the new sun protection measures
  • A policy was developed and endorsed by the school community
  • A Cancer Council WA representative spoke to kindergarten parents on sun protection
  • O’Connor PS celebrated becoming a SunSmart School with a whole school assembly and local media coverage.

Assembly cropped