child playing on swing

Sun safety in schools: what you need to know

Posted on | Posted in Education

As the temperature steadily increases and we begin enjoying some much-needed sunny days, it’s important to remember the importance of sun safety, particularly in schools. Make playing and learning outdoors in school both safe and fun with our tips and advice for sun safety in schools. We’ve answered some of the most commonly asked questions about sun safe schools – here’s what you need to know.    

How can I protect my skin from sun in school? 

According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, around 23 percent of lifetime UV exposure occurs before the age of 18, so it’s important that children are aware of the importance of sun safety – particularly when they’re in school.  

The sun’s rays tend to be the most powerful between the hours of 10am and 3pm, with the sun at its highest point around noon, when children tend to be outside enjoying their lunch break. Teachers and parents alike have a duty of care to teach children how to best protect their skin. This should include: 

  • Applying a high-factor sunscreen 
  • Wearing a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses 
  • Avoiding direct sunlight by seeking out shade 

Do children put sunscreen on at school? 

All schools will have slightly different policies relating to sun safety, so there’s no clear-cut answer. If a school allows children to bring in sunscreen from home, a high SPF is recommended. The NHS says children should wear at least SPF30 sunscreen, but the higher the better. We’d recommend SPF50+ for the best possible protection.  

bottles of sun screen

Can teachers put sunscreen on students?

Many parents are unsure whether teachers can put sunscreen on students, and there is some misinformation about the legalities surrounding it. In short, individual schools will have their own health & safety policies, but by law, teachers are allowed to help children apply sunscreen. 

The Department for Education says it expects schools to take a “sensible approach” to the issue, and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) says that “health and safety legislation does not prevent school staff from applying or helping pupils apply sun cream.”  

In cases where a school’s internal guidelines prohibit student/teacher contact, parents are often asked to apply sunscreen to their children before school. In these cases, a strong ‘once a day’ sun cream with a high SPF is recommended.  

How to teach children sun safety? 

Once a child is of school age, they’re old enough to learn the basics of sun safety. Children should be taught about the importance of sun protection, including 

  • How to apply sunscreen. Teaching a child to apply sunscreen to themselves is one way to get around the potential issue of teachers having physical contact with students. Child-friendly formulas like sprays and roll-ons may be easier for a child to use.
  • Making sure to stick to shaded areas at the hottest times of the day. If the playground had dedicated shelter, like a school canopy, this is ideal. If not, playing in a shaded part of the playground or under the shade of some trees is a better option than in direct sunlight.
  • The benefits of protective clothing like wide-brimmed sun hats or a cap, and sunglasses to help protect their eyes from UV. 

There are many great resources that schools can use in order to best teach pupils about the importance of sun safety. Sun Safe Schools is a national accreditation programme that provides primary schools with free resources to help them safeguard children against UV. Their downloadable resources include a sun safety assembly guide, a storybook, and fun activity sheets.  

How can schools help protect children? 

It’s important that schools adopt safe sun policies in order to keep their pupils as safe as possible. This could involve teaching children about the importance of sun safety in classrooms, encouraging children to drink plenty of water during the summer to avoid dehydration, as well as ensuring children have adequate protection from the sun when out on the playground.  

School shelters and canopies are a perfect way to make sure that children have access to safe, shaded areas during the hotter seasons. Our canopies offer great protection from the sun’s harmful UV rays thanks to their Melinex gel-coated roofs. They provide an ideal, sheltered space for children to play or enjoy outdoor learning in the summer months without worrying about the damaging effects of the sun.    

We hope this answered some of the questions you may have about sun safety in schools. If your school could benefit from a play area canopy, why not get in touch to talk through your options?