WA // Two ways to rethink sun protection at your school
Western Australian primary schools are doing an amazing job at protecting children from damaging ultraviolet radiation (UVR). To build on this great work, here are two tweaks to your school’s approach to reinforce the SunSmart message.
Think UV not heat
It’s UVR from the sun that causes sunburn and skin damage, not heat. Misconceptions about UVR are common, with many people relying on temperature and sunshine to determine when to use sun protection, rather than the actual measure, which is the UV Index. Sun protection (clothing, hats, sunscreen, shade and sunglasses) is required when the UV Index is 3 and above. Even in cooler parts of WA, the UV Index will be 3 or above nearly every day of the year. Requiring sun protection only in terms 1 and 4 will put students at risk of skin cancer, as this is based on temperature, not UV. Remember that UV is not the same as heat.
An easy way to check your local UV forecast is to use the free SunSmart App, which has sun protection times for more than 600 locations across Australia, providing you with an easy way to find out when you do and don’t need sun protection each day.
Abolish ‘no hat no play’
Yes that’s right – ‘no hat no play’ has to go! This is because:
- It can decrease levels of physical activity: Cancer Council WA discourages a rule where children miss out on play and / or physical activity because they do not have a hat. We want children to be more active! Students who have forgotten their hat or cannot provide their own can be accommodated by a ‘No SunSmart hat? Play in the shade!’ rule or by schools having a supply of spare hats.
- It can discourage students from wearing hats outside of school: When students are punished for not wearing a hat, sun protection can be viewed by students as an anxiety-inducing, enforceable rule that only applies to school time. Ideally, wearing a hat should be associated with a positive health behaviour that they can transfer to non-school days and secondary school. A rule of ‘No SunSmart hat? Play in the Shade!’ provides an alternative to playing in the sun, rather than a punishment.
For information on the implementing sun protection in your school, download the best practice guidelines for WA schools.