The incidence of skin cancer in Australia is a matter of concern for the whole community, including schools. Australia has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world with one in two Australians developing some form of skin cancer during their lifetime.
Our schools take sun safety seriously and run programs designed to make students aware of the damaging effects of the sun.
Each school also has a responsibility to provide a safe environment for students and staff and this includes providing adequate protection from the sun throughout the year.
Skin damage in childhood
Much of the sun exposure that causes skin damage occurs during childhood and adolescence. By the age of 15 many children have developed irreversible skin damage from exposure to the sun.
Five major factors in Australia contribute to high rates of sun damage:
- a large proportion of the population has fair skin
- ultraviolet radiation (UVR) from the sun is of high intensity
- lifestyle, work, school and recreational practices may expose us to the sun frequently and for long periods
- a suntan is seen by many as healthy and attractive
- exposure of the skin to the sun is common during peak UVR times.
Stay in the shade
Students are encouraged to protect their skin by:
- reducing their exposure to the sun, wherever possible
- wearing broad-brimmed hats in the playground to protect the face, neck and ears, and playing in shaded areas. Some primary schools have adopted a 'No hat, play in the shade' policy for recess and lunchtimes
- wearing clothing (preferably of closely woven fabric) with collars and long sleeves to provide maximum sun protection
- remaining in the shade whenever possible, particularly during peak UVR times
- participating in sun protection activities
- using 30+ broad-spectrum, water resistant sunscreen as an adjunct to other sun protection measures. Some schools provide sunscreen for use by children. Parents and caregivers should check this with the school principal.
Sunscreens should be applied before going outside and reapplied frequently as directed by the manufacturer.
Sun safety is also important outside of school. Whether in the backyard or on the beach, children should wear a hat and sunscreen. By practising sun safety at home, parents and caregivers can help teachers to enforce sun safety rules in school.
Children will come to appreciate the importance of sun protection not only during their schooling, but also throughout their life.
Covered Outdoor Learning Areas (COLA)
COLAs or Covered Outdoor Learning Areas are multi-purpose structures that provide sun and rain protection, and additional learning space such an outdoor assembly area, an extension of the communal hall or a covered canteen area. COLAs also provide a refuge for children excluded from playing in the sun under the 'No hat, play in the shade' rule.