Survey says Victorian schools lagging behind on sunscreen availability

Monday 28 August, 2017

A new survey shows Victorian primary schools are leading the way in most sun protection measures, but need more support to increase sunscreen in the classroom.

The survey of sun protection practices in Australian primary schools found of the schools participating in the survey, Victorian schools led the way in enforcing hat use (100%), having a collared shirt included in the uniform (93%) and having a written sun protection policy (90%). Victorian teachers also rated highly for role modelling with 87% wearing a hat outdoors at school, compared to 73% in other states.

However, although most Victorian schools (91%) actively encouraged sunscreen use, sunscreen availability in classrooms has dropped from 54% in 2011 to just 34% last year.

SunSmart Early Childhood and Primary School Co-ordinator Justine Osborne said the lack of sunscreen was a blip on an otherwise positive report card – but one that could be readily fixed.

“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. Fortunately, parents are ideally placed to help turn this around.”

SunSmart is asking parents and families to support their child’s SunSmart school initiatives by supplying their child with sunscreen, and making sure children know how to use it by practicing application at home.

Ms Osborne said parents could cut costs by contributing to a bulk supply for the classroom, and may want to prompt their children to re-apply by keeping sunscreen in the lunchbox or clipped to the schoolbag. Schools are then asked to have strategies in place such as sunscreen buddies, to remind children to apply sunscreen before heading outside.

“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.

In Victoria, more than 250 skin cancers are treated each day, and more than 500 people die from skin cancer each year.

The good news is most skin cancer can be prevented, and Australian melanoma rates show the incidence of the disease has dropped for people aged under 40, thanks to the positive impact of SunSmart.

“We know the powerful role schools and parents can play in skin cancer prevention and we need to keep that work going for future generations,” Ms Osborne said.

“Don’t wait for summer to make the change – SunSmart season starts now, so make sure you’ve got sunscreen packed along with a broad-brimmed hat, ready for school each day.”

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About the data
The National SunSmart Schools Program survey compares sun protection practices and policies of schools across Australia, and is conducted regularly by Cancer Council SA. The survey collects data from both SunSmart member and non-member schools. In Victoria, 114 surveys were collected.

Sun protection policies and practices in primary schools Victoria (%) 2011 survey Victoria (%) 2016 survey Other states (%) 2016 survey

Actively encouraged sunscreen use
92 91 91
Sunscreen available in all classrooms 54 34 48
Hat wearing is enforced among students 99 100 95
Teachers required to wear a hat when outdoors during school hours 87 87 73
Had a school uniform that included shirts with collars 87 93 93
School has a written sun protection policy 89 90 77


About SunSmart Schools
The SunSmart Schools Program offered by Cancer Council Victoria is a free membership program available to all primary schools in Victoria. Members of the program receive support and advice to develop a UV policy that meets the highest standard for sun protection, as well as free resources and staff training. More than 90% of primary schools are currently members of the program.

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