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Society Says Schools Should Be Taking More Care

Cancer Society Says Schools Should Be Taking More Care

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Media release
16 November 2006

Cancer Society Says Schools Should Be Taking More Care

The risks of UV radiation exposure during childhood in developing skin cancer in later life have been well publicised by the Cancer Society for many years.

Schools have an important role to play, as during Terms One and Four, children are in the school environment five days a week during the period of peak UV Radiation – i.e. 11am to 4pm (October to March). But the Cancer Society says many schools are not doing enough to protect the children in their care.

As part of SunSmart Week (November 12 – 18) the Cancer Society is encouraging all schools to accept their responsibility for making sure their pupils are protected from UV Radiation damage.

The Society introduced a national SunSmart Schools Accreditation Policy (SSAP) a year ago. This programme provides accreditation for schools that develop and implement a comprehensive sun protection policy. The SunSmart Schools website provides all the information that schools need to become accredited. Schools can also apply online.

But while 59 percent of schools surveyed by the Society do have a SunSmart policy of some kind, the standards enforced are not giving kiwi kids the level of protection they need.

The Cancer Society’s research shows only 40 percent of schools enforce wearing of hats that protect the face, neck and ears. Nearly 40 percent of schools had inadequate shade.

Parents are warned that episodes of sunburn, particularly in childhood and adolescence, also increase the risk of the life threatening form of skin cancer, melanoma. Each year over 300 New Zealanders die from skin cancer, the majority from melanoma.

“New Zealand children spend more than 30 hours a week at school – out of parents’ control. The Cancer Society’s SSAP is gaining momentum both with schools who want to do their best to protect children in their care and with parents who want to know their child is being SunSmart even when they aren’t around to remind them. But we have a long way to go,” says Cancer Society SunSmart advisor Dr Judith Galtry.

“We hear from many horrified parents each year about their child coming home from sports day or the school picnic badly sunburned.

“No matter how vigilant you might be in the home setting, unless your school carries out a comprehensive sun safety policy once your child goes out the door to school, you can only hope they will remember good SunSmart behaviour or that the school will take steps to protect them.”

She says parents whose schools have been accredited by the Cancer Society can have a lot more confidence that their children are protected from the sun.

“And we’re also hoping parents will push for their children’s schools to adopt the sample SunSmart policy which is available on the SunSmart Schools website. This policy is not only comprehensive but will also save schools a lot of time in terms of policy development,” Dr Galtry says.

Peter Ross, principal of Wakefield School in Nelson, which is SunSmart Accredited, says the school has been working for a number of years to increase the safety of its students from the sun.

“We didn’t try to do it all at once – for example we started by enforcing a hat policy. Now we’re enforcing a hat policy where only wide-brimmed hats (one of the types recommended by the Cancer Society) are acceptable.

“As the school has grown, new additions have included shade provisions such as verandahs and tree planting. We take advantage of any new opportunity to increase shade provision,” Mr Ross says.

Dr Galtry says local Cancer Society staff around the country are working with schools to achieve accreditation standards.

“Any school that would like to adopt an SSAP can find out more about it by going to . We’d also like to see parents encouraging their children’s schools to become Sunsmart Accredited. Many schools have shown an interest in the programme and schools that are not yet involved in the programme can find out more by going to This website includes a section for parents.


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