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Thursday 22nd August 2019

Sun care policy for schools

15th July 2011

Richard Clifford from the charity Skin Cancer UK argues that there must be changes to school sun care policies.


Despite evidence that sunburn in childhood can lead to skin cancer in later life, there is no provision in primary and secondary schools for teachers or dinner-ladies to supervise the application of sunscreen on pupils before they go out to play.

Sunshine is good for children and helps the body make Vitamin D but too much is damaging and children are vulnerable to over-exposure.

Time spent playing outdoors at breaks and lunchtime as well as during sports lessons means children spend some 90 minutes outside during school time but a recent survey has found that almost 40% of pupils have suffered sunburn while at school.

With the British Association of Dermatology estimating that 80% of five skin cancer deaths are preventable, simple measures like seeking shade and using sunscreen can help prevent these dangers.

While guidelines recommend schools have a sun policy, they are not prescriptive or mandatory and provision of shade is seemingly disregarded in many UK schools.

Sunscreen should be applied but how can this be achieved in schools?

Teachers have their own time pressures and there are inevitable questions concerning child abuse but there is no reason why they should not supervise the application of sunscreen.

While in Australia – where sun protection is part of the educational programme - over 75% of schools qualify for Sunsmart, the uptake in the UK for similar support schemes is patchy.

It is left to the individual teacher to decide as on whether to introduce the subject of UV awareness. This is simply not good enough.


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