As we make our way into another school year it is important for mums and dads to remember that Term 1 is a "peak UV period". Overall, ACT primary schools do a good job when it comes to hats on policies, shade provision, teacher role modelling, SunSmart professional learning for teachers and general awareness. Unfortunanately when it comes to effective sunscreen application strategies this may not always be the case!
A growing number of schools in Canberra are making sunscreen easily accessible to all students and staff (WH&S) throughout the school setting via classrooms or "designated sunscreen application spots" which is great, in fact this is best practice nowadays! However some schools may continue to place the emphasis and responsibility toward parents and the individual student bringing their own sunscreen to school, and whilst this is still important it may not be as effective for all children.
Under the ACT Government's Education and Training's updated (2015) Sun (UV) Protection For Students policy is states clearly that "schools actively support and promote the daily use of sunscreen" and "schools are required to make sunscreen accessible to all students and workers for daily applications throughout the day, schools have sunscreen in most, if not all classrooms".
Regardless where the sunscreen is coming from the important thing is that it needs to be applied correctly and reapplied (after a few hours) to remain effective!
When it comes to sunscreen use in our schools the most important thing is for teachers to actively make time and opportunities for students to stop and apply it. This is particularly important before outdoor lunch experiences when daily UV levels peak during Term 1 and sunscreen will be required to protect areas of the skin that school uniforms don't cover Ie face, arms and lower legs etc.
So, this term send your child to school with sunscreen already applied at home every day and make sure your school is also doing their bit to remind your child to reapply sunscreen before lunch time and PE because home application will require re-application to remain effective throughout the day.
Making the most of sunscreen at school in Term 1.
When it comes to sun protection always consider sunscreen as your child's final barrier of protection against potentially damaging UV. Always use sunscreen in combination with other sun protection measures such as sensible clothing that covers as much skin as possible and seeking whenever you can. Never use sunscreen to extend your time outdoors. Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of sunscreen at school this Term.
- Store a tube of sunscreen in the bathroom, when your child is brushing his/her teeth before school this is a perfect opportunity for them to also apply sunscreen to their face, neck and ears. Make sunscreen accessible to your child.
- Apply liberally before leaving the house to exposed skin including arms and legs. Ie about a teaspoon per limb (for an adult), less for a child.
- Don't be overzealous when applying/rubbing- allow sunscreen to sit on the skin to form a barrier or filter against UV.
- Cancer Council recommends sunscreen is reapplied after 2 hours- and this is where it becomes a challenge for schools. Talk to your school about its current strategies to assist students reapply sunscreen before lunch and PE etc. It should be outlined in the school's UV Protection Policy.
- As the saying goes- safety in numbers! Does your school have "designated sunscreen application spots"? If is doesn't, it should! Children are more likely to apply sunscreen if other kids are seen applying it and if teachers are actively encouraging this positive 'normal' behaviour.
- Make sunscreen application a 'normal' thing to do at your school. It happens in early childhood services and it should also happen in our school settings. Exposed skin needs protection from UV exposure when outdoors and primary school students are outdoors during the peak UV period 5 days a week!
- If you feel that your school could be doing more to increase sunscreen use then raise the issue with your school's P&C- you may find that other parents feel the same way!
ACT primary schools and parents can now view their school's NEW online SunSmart Certificate here. ACT primary schools with SunSmart status can also receive 20% discount on Cancer Council sunscreen, to find out how please contact us.