The National SunSmart Schools program
Sun safety education can’t start too early. In Australia, we need to be particularly aware of how to have fun in the sun while avoiding its harmful effects, and it should start in early childhood.
In 1998, the Cancer Council has launched a series of school programs aimed at partnering with schools to educate children about how to stay safe in the sun, called SunSmart Schools. Today, that program is offered to all schools and early education centres nationwide.
As well as being able to educate students about sun safety, school generally takes place during the time of day when UV levels are at their highest, which makes it particularly important that sun safety is made a priority. Let’s look at what the SunSmart Schools program is aiming to achieve, and how you can find out if your school is part of the program.
Keeping Young Skin Healthy
Skin protection needs to start as early as possible. Ultraviolet radiation damage accumulated during childhood is linked with an increased risk of skin cancer later in life – one of the most common but also the most preventable cancers. The good news is that with the right education and protection in place, our kids can enjoy the sunny days to the fullest.
While overexposure to UV can be damaging later on in life (not to mention sunburn in the short term), schools can partner with parents and the community to make sure children are in the shade during the part of the day with the highest UV levels, are wearing protective clothing and sunscreen, and are educated to know how and why they should protect themselves from overexposure to the sun.
The SunSmart program provides resources and information for schools, as well as an endorsement when their sun safe practices meet the Cancer Council’s guidelines.
It makes sense that as caretakers of children and the place where most kids spend a big part of their sunny days, schools should be a place where sun protection is modelled, taught and practiced.
Schools can take steps to make their community a safer place for children. To be endorsed by the SunSmart program, schools need to practice and model sun safety in different areas, such as;
Creating a SunSmart Environment.
• Scheduling. To keep kids safe it’s important that they’re under cover during peak UV times. Schools can help by scheduling outdoor activities to avoid times with the highest UV levels.
• Creating and using shade. Schools need to have plenty of undercover areas that can be used by students, especially during the hottest part of the days. Midday activities can be scheduled indoors or under shaded areas to keep children safe.
• SunSmart uniforms. Uniform options should take sun safety into account, especially requiring broad-brimmed hats when outdoors.
• Sunscreen use. A 30 SPF+ sunscreen should be used and on hand at all times for children and staff. Carroten have a wide range of sunscreen that meets the Cancer Council’s criteria, and is suitable for young skin.
• Clothing choices. SunSmart clothing should be worn by teachers and students when in the sun. Hats are particularly important to keep students and teachers safe from the sun, and sunglasses reduce glare and protect sensitive eyes from UV damage.
• Modelling SunSmart behaviour. Students are even more likely to adopt sun safe habits when they see them modelled. It’s important that both teachers and students are encouraged to be role models in sun safe practices.
• Teaching sun protection. It’s not enough to tell students to wear their hat – it’s important to explain why. When students are empowered with the why and how of sun safety, they have the tools to keep themselves protected.
• The wider school community. Sun safety is a culture change, and the whole school community needs to play a part. Teachers, students, guardians and staff need to be informed to make sun safety a priority.
• Policy review. As the school community grows and evolves, it’s important to revisit sun safe policies to ensure the most up-to-date recommendations are being implemented. The SunSmart council suggests a review every three years.
Keeping Schools Safe.
Child safety is of utmost importance, and schools are increasingly coming on board in a commitment to protect children from the harmful effects of the sun. Playing outside is an important part of Australian culture, so schools can make sure that children are safe and protected when UV risk factors are increased.
The national SunSmart Schools program is available to all primary schools and early educators. With the ability to help protect children from an increased chance of developing sun-related skin issues later in life, it’s important that schools get on board and commit to meeting the guidelines set by the Cancer Council. You can check if your school is part of the program, and get plenty of resources and ideas from their website.
The Australian sunny days should be celebrated, but kids need protecting. Most children are in school during the day, so sun safety needs to be high priority. With a SunSmart environment, behaviour and information – as well as Carroten sunscreen – schools can join with the community to keep kids safe and SunSmart.