Supporting SunSmart Schools

In the New Zealand context, education about skin cancer prevention and the reduction of sun exposure in educational settings has been identified as one of the highest priorities for melanoma control. Children must therefore be a key target group for prevention and education programmes.

An emphasis on sun protection and skin cancer prevention in schools is important for two reasons:

  1. They are places where infants and young children spend much of their time.
  2. They also provide opportunities through staff professional development and curriculum incorporation for both staff and students to learn about appropriate strategies for sun protection.  

Why parental/ caregivers' support is important

  • A school's sun protection policy will be most effective if representatives of the whole school community of Boards of Trustees, staff, students, parents and caregivers are involved in the development of the policy.
  • Parents and caregivers' commitment to provide support and reinforcement of the policy will be necessary if it is to be implemented effectively.
  • In some cases, it might be appropriate for parents to lobby the BoT (as parent representatives) to support the adoption of this programme. 

How can parents help to support the SunSmart schools programme? 

Be a role model

  • Parents and caregivers need to demonstrate SunSmart behaviour by seeking shade, where possible, between the hours of 10am and 4pm, wearing effective sunhats, sun protective clothing, recommended sunscreen and sunglasses to reduce their risk of skin damage.
  • By being a role model to children, parents and caregivers reinforce the SunSmart policy and practices occurring at school. 

Reinforce SunSmart behaviours within the school

Parents and caregivers have an important role in supporting the SSAP including:

  • Being involved in the development of the school's sun protection policy.
  • Providing sunscreen and sun protective clothing for your child in accordance with the school's sun protection policy.
  • Demonstrating sun protection behaviour when involved with the school e.g. wearing an appropriate hat.
  • Encouraging your child to adopt sun protection behaviour both at school and out of school.
  • Advocating for and supporting efforts to increase the provision of shade in the school grounds e.g. fundraising for shade provision.
  • Reinforcing the SSAP when away from school. 

Reinforce SunSmart behaviours when away from the school

Sun Protection outside school hours:

  • During the daylight saving months, ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels are at their highest between the hours of 10am to 4pm. It is important to protect the skin from the sun during this time.
  • Children can be exposed to very high levels of UV radiation when away from school on week-ends and school holidays. It is important that parents and caregivers reinforce the SunSmart behaviours to protect children when they are not at school. 
  • A SunSmart Accredited school will have a sun protection policy to protect children from sun exposure between 10am-4pm during Terms 1 and 4. As high levels of ultraviolet radiation occur until 4pm, children need to be protected for the 3-4pm time period after school.
  • Provide appropriate hats and sunscreen (broad spectrum, SPF30+) if they are outdoors between 3-4pm. This includes the time when children are walking home from school or playing sport or other outdoor activities.
  • Schedule outdoor activities for after 4pm when radiation levels are lower. Encourage indoor activity or used shaded areas from 3pm-4pm.
  • If your children attend an after school care programme encourage the programme supervisors to develop a sun protection policy to protect children between 3-4pm.