Teaching SunSmart behaviours in Aotearoa

Issue: Volume 101, Number 2

Posted: 28 February 2022
Reference #: 1HASw1

Schools are uniquely placed to provide a sun safe environment, educate ākonga about sun protection behaviour and reduce the risk of skin cancer by becoming SunSmart.

St Joseph's Ashburton Catholic School is one of 500 SunSmart accredited schools in Aotearoa.

St Joseph's Ashburton Catholic School is one of 500 SunSmart accredited schools in Aotearoa.

Ākonga spend many hours outside the classroom, particularly in the summer months when ultraviolet (UV) radiation levels are at their peak. The SunSmart Schools programme provides guidelines on how to make schools a safe place for students and the school community.

"Skin cancer is the most common cancer in Aotearoa New Zealand," says Dr Kate Gregory, the Cancer Society medical director.

"Fortunately, we now know that there are things we can do to lower our risk. It is important that we embed SunSmart practices in our lives from a very young age, as UV damage accumulates over time. Up to the age of 18 is a key time for making sure that our children and families are protected."

A safe environment

Cancer caused by UV rays from the sun is easily preventable, and schools and kura play an important role in providing environments that protect ākonga, teachers, volunteers and staff. They also have a role in sharing sun protection knowledge and skills.

Exposure to UV radiation is a recognised hazard for anyone who spends all or part of their days outside – including teachers. Each School Board should have policies in place around health and safety practices, including how they manage sun safety.

The Ministry of Education provides guidance to boards about protection from UV radiation in schools, as well as information about shade structures.

Schools can also use advice provided WorkSafe New Zealand to develop their sun protection policies, and the Cancer Society actively works with early learning centres, primary and secondary schools to support teachers and school communities to get the SunSmart message across.

Being a SunSmart school

St Joseph's in Ashburton is one of 500 SunSmart accredited schools in Aotearoa, where shade is an excellent option for sun protection.

Ākonga enjoy using shade areas for several purposes, including Education Outside the Classroom (EOTC), Kapa Haka and school assemblies, as well as eating lunch and playing.

Principal Cath Blacklow says providing shade and also a well-ventilated space is really important for students and parents who attend their assemblies throughout summer.

“We utilise the stadium area with its large shade sail for a wide variety of events. We couldn't be without it." 

St Joseph's Ashburton Catholic School Principal Cath Blacklow, pictured with ākonga wearing their sun hats and enjoying the shaded environment. 

St Joseph's Ashburton Catholic School Principal Cath Blacklow, pictured with ākonga wearing their sun hats and enjoying the shaded environment. 

SunSmart programme

"Given the rates of skin cancer, learning SunSmart behaviours is essential for all children in Aotearoa," adds Lucy Elwood, Cancer Society chief executive.

"It is the behaviours that they learn now that will help keep them safe from harmful UV into adulthood. We have developed some fantastic resources for teachers to use in the classroom and we hope more schools will start the new school year SunSmart by signing up to our programme."

The SunSmart Schools programme is free to join, and the SunSmart module is also free for all schools and kura.

If a school becomes a SunSmart School, the Cancer Society offers an accreditation certificate and a sign for the school building or gate. Some divisions also offer SunSmart hats, 1-litre of sunscreen, and seedling trees.

To be accredited as SunSmart, schools must address:

  • Behaviour – use of sun hats, clothing, broad-spectrum SPF 30+ sunscreen.
  • Environment – working towards providing shade and encouraging its use.
  • Curriculum – educating students about UV and sun protection.
  • Review – the school's sun protection policy is reviewed at least every three years.

More information, including teaching resources and SunSmart sample policies, is available at www.sunsmart.org.nz/sunsmart-schools(external link)

 

Slip, Slop, Slap and Wrap guidelines

Slip into the shade

Find a nice shady tree or a shade sail to slip into. Shade is one of the best and easiest ways to protect ourselves against UV radiation.

Slip on clothing that covers your skin

A shirt with long sleeves is ideal.

Slop on some sunscreen

Broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen of at least SPF 30 is recommended. Remember to apply 20 minutes before you go outdoors and reapply every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.

Slap on a hat

Wide-brimmed hats protect the face, neck and ears. Wrap on sunglasses. Sunglasses can protect your eyes from UV radiation.

Wrap on sunglasses

Sunglasses can protect your eyes from UV radiation.

Further reading

 

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 10:09 AM, 28 February 2022

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