Call for more school sunscreen

September 06, 2017

Victorian primary schools are top of the class when it comes to protecting children from the sun, but more sunscreen needs to be made available in the classroom according to a new SunSmart survey of schools across the country.

The survey found that Victoria outclassed other states in enforcing school hat use (100 per cent) and sun protection policies (90 per cent), but were falling behind at providing sunscreen in the classroom (34 per cent).

Bucking the trend was Cobram Primary School, which keeps tubs of sunscreen near the classroom doors as part of its SunSmart policy.

School principal Matt Knight said he was taught to Slip, Slop, Slap on the sunscreen as a kid, and is keen to pass on that message to his students.

‘‘It’s particularly important where we live in Cobram, since we get plenty of sun and often have days above 40 degrees heat,’’ he said.

‘‘We try to make sure the kids understand how to take care of their skin. It’s part of our curriculum to make sure they understand the importance of straying safe.’’

Cobram Primary School student Meg Guppy said she experienced first-hand the consequences of not wearing sunscreen.

‘‘I got sunburnt really badly once, all down my back,’’ she said.

Student Spencer Clark said he ‘‘mostly’’ remembered to wear sunscreen on sunny days, but needed an occasional reminder from his teachers.

‘‘They teach us about sun safety and Slip, Slop, Slap,’’ he said.

Sunscreen availability in Victorian classrooms dropped from 54 per cent in 2011 to 34 per cent last year.

SunSmart Early Childhood and Primary School co-ordinator Justine Osborne said the lack of sunscreen was a black mark on an otherwise positive report card.

‘‘Victorian schools are making a fantastic contribution to skin cancer prevention in our state, but sunscreen supply is one area where there’s definitely room for improvement,’’ Ms Osborne said.

‘‘The schools are on the right path with their other sun protection practices, and the support is there for sunscreen, but it’s just not being made available.’’

UV levels have started to rise despite the recent cool weather, prompting the Cancer Council of Victoria to urge schools and parents to stock up on sunscreen well before summer.

‘‘Using sunscreen with a broad-brim hat, covering clothing, shade and sunglasses provides children with the best level of protection against UV damage, which is the major cause of skin cancer,’’ Ms Osborne said.

- Kenji Sato

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