Sun exposure is a normal and enjoyable part of everyday life. Some sun is good as it is needed to form vitamin D. There are also risks arising from being out in the sun’s rays as they can damage the skin causing sunburn and in the longer term skin cancer.
The health and wellbeing of the girls at Alderley Edge School for Girls is very important to us and for this reason we developed a sunlight exposure policy. This has been implemented in the junior school and in light of the newly published NICE guidance on the benefits and risk of sunlight exposure, has been updated to become a sunlight exposure policy for implementation across the whole school.
Aims and objectives
NICE’s published guideline on sunlight exposure highlights that : “Managers and staff in early years, education and leisure environments could develop a policy on how to protect children and young people’s skin when they are outside for more than a brief period in strong sunlight. This includes those working in preschool settings, primary and secondary schools.”
In light of this and advice on the Cancer Research UK website, we developed a policy to ensure we raise awareness of this issue and to protect the health and wellbeing of the girls attending this school and that of their families and carers.
Reasons for implementing your project
The health and wellbeing of the girls attending Alderley Edge School for Girls is always of paramount importance to the school and for this reason Personal Social Health Education (PSHE) lessons are planned to ensure public health messages are embedded. We always endeavour to update our policies and practices in line with current guidelines.
The demographic of our pupils is very varied with girls attending from various different ethnic backgrounds. This means that tailoring the messages about sunlight exposure to meet differing needs is important. Many of our pupils travel to warmer countries with their families and/or carers during term holidays and as such it is very important that we help to raise awareness of both the benefits and risks of sunlight exposure.
It is good practice to have a school sun protection policy and upon becoming aware of the development of this NICE guideline we reviewed and updated our policy.
How did you implement the project
The Head of the Junior School along with the Deputy Head, drafted a policy on sun protection taking into account NICE’s guideline on skin cancer prevention using cancer research UK’s guideline on developing such a policy. This was signed off and implemented successfully throughout the junior school. Once signed off, the policy was sent out to parents/carers as it actively asks them to help (please see supporting material).
At the start of the summer term in April, we sent out a reminder letter to all parents reminding them about the policy and asking that girls were sent into school with protective clothing, applied sunscreen and a named bottle of sunscreen. There was also a permission slip for girls in our early years asking for permission to apply sunscreen if necessary.
For girls in year 3 and above, we ask that parents/carers sign the correct page in their daughter’s planner to give this permission. We did not encounter any barriers or resistance to this new policy. On publication of NICE’s guideline on sunlight exposure we recognised the importance of highlighting both the benefits and risks of sunlight exposure and so we updated the policy to reflect the recommendations in the new guideline. We have also updated lesson plans for our PHSE lessons covering this topic so that they now cover both the benefits and risks.
We have very positive feedback from the Senior Management Team as well as the teaching staff on the updated policy. As a direct result of the new guidelines we have updated our in school sun protection screen from factor 25 to 30. As a school we are also now aware of the importance of educating children, not only on the safety aspects of sunlight exposure, but also on the benefits.
We have also made this a school-wide policy as opposed to just a junior school policy – reinforcing its importance.
Results on the effects of this policy on behaviour will be seen in time. Evaluating the effectiveness of such a policy is a challenge and would require pre and post implementation surveys in addition to assessing behaviours over time. This is not something the school are able to resource. We believe the children and their families have a better understanding of the benefits and risks of sunlight exposure as a direct result of updating and implementing this policy.
Key learning points
As a school we would definitely reinforce the importance of having a sunlight exposure policy. We feel that it is our duty to educate children using credible guidelines and therefore looking after the health and wellbeing of the girls attending Alderley Edge School for Girls. These guidelines are applicable to any school setting and a key learning point for schools is that NICE guidance is of relevance to them.
Integrating into PSHE lessons to reinforce policy messages is a key learning point that other schools may take from this work.
Sending the policy home and asking for signed slips makes sure that the knowledge is transferred to children’s families and another key learning point.