WA // School sun protection when money’s tight
We know that skin cancer is Australia’s most common and expensive cancer1 and that the leading cause of skin cancer is sun exposure2. Sun exposure during the childhood years, particularly if it results in sunburn, damages the skin3. That’s why Cancer Council developed the SunSmart Schools program. It’s essentially a check list of evidence-based criteria that if implemented, reduces UVR (ultraviolet radiation) exposure of students and staff.
We also know that money is tight for both schools and families at the moment. Effective sun protection doesn’t have to be expensive – here are some low-cost and sustainable ways to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.
Students and staff are required to wear a broad-brimmed, bucket or legionnaires style hat that protects the face, neck, ears and crown of the head. Note: Baseball caps do not provide adequate protection. Students without hats will remain protected from the sun and encouraged to play in shaded areas. Ideally, every child would have their own brimmed hat that they could also wear out of school hours. If they don’t have their own hat, spare hats are available for outdoor lessons.
- Ask for help – the P&C/P&F, local businesses, charity organisations such as GIVIT or generous parents may be willing to donate extra school hats to give to needy families.
- Sell hats at cost price if possible.
- Try to reduce the number of hats that go missing and therefore need replacing by labelling with names when purchased at the uniform shop or collected from school, or use tracking technology for lost property such as RagTagd.
- Ask families, community groups or use social media (such as Buy Nothing groups) for unused hats to re-home.
- Check out your local op shop for cheap hats to use as spares.
Clothing that covers as much skin as possible is part of the school uniform or dress code. Students and staff are required to wear a rash vest or similar top for outdoor swimming activities
- Encourage families to donate used uniforms, hats and rashies back to the school and distribute at no cost to needy students.
- While rashies are the best choice when swimming, ordinary long sleeved t-shirts also offer good protection.
Sunscreen is available and accessible to students and staff in classrooms and around the school. All students and staff apply SPF30 or higher sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors and reapply during the day. Sunscreen is stored in a cool place out of the sun.
- Your local supermarket or chemist may donate sunscreen or provide it at a reduced cost in exchange for advertising on social media or in the newsletter.
- Ask families for donations of excess sunscreen that may not be suitable for them, but could still be used by other students. Just make sure it’s in date and can be applied hygienically.
- Make sure sunscreen is stored correctly and used before it goes out of date.
- Registered SunSmart Schools receive a small amount of free sunscreen when they renew membership. Visit generationsunsmart.com.au for information on how to join or renew in the program.
Ensure there is adequate provision of shade within the school grounds for students and staff, particularly in areas in high use areas such as popular play spaces, where children eat lunch and outdoor lesson areas. Ensure that adequate shade is provided at sporting carnivals and outdoor events. Shade provision is considered in plans for future buildings, grounds and playground equipment.
- Plan for shade in new construction. Include the cost of shade in any grants or funding applications for playgrounds. Students often don’t use expensive playground equipment because they are not shaded, meaning it’s not value for money.
- Marquees don’t just need to be for sports days. When the UV is high, they may fit perfectly over a sand pit or play area.
- For sports carnivals, share marquees between schools or ask to borrow from groups such as Lions or Rotary.
- Ask your governing body or local politician for help. If there is demand from lots of schools, they may try to meet it with funding.
Staff are required to wear sun protective hats when supervising students.
- Remember that wearing a hat, sunscreen and sun protective clothing yourself is one of the most effective ways to encourage students to do the same.
- Claim sun protective items for personal use as a tax deduction.
Curriculum and communication
Programs on sun protection are included in the curriculum. Sun protection is communicated to staff, families and visitors via newsletters, social media, assemblies, daily messages, whole school activities, and parent and staff meetings. Families and visitors are encouraged to role model sun protection measures when attending outdoor activities.
- Visit generationsunsmart.com.au for free curriculum materials, parent communication tools and more.
Need more help or have other ideas to share? Get in touch by email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 08 9212 4333.
1 Fransen, M., et al., Non-melanoma skin cancer in Australia. Medical Journal of Australia, 2012. 197(10): p. 566-568.
2 Armstrong, B.K., How sun exposure causes skin cancer: An epidemiological perspective in Prevention of skin cancer, D. Hill, M. Elwood, and D. English, Editors. 2004, Kluwer Academic Publishers: Dordrecht.
3 Green, A.C., S.C. Wallingford, and P. McBride, Childhood exposure to ultraviolet radiation and harmful skin effects: epidemiological evidence. Progress in Biophysics and Molecular Biology, 2011. 107(3): p. 349-55.