Telling your students to apply sunscreen before and during school is a great way to keep them protected from the sun, but it's not a comprehensive solution. Many children don't apply sunscreen to every part of their skin, neglect to do it often enough, or ignore the suggestion altogether. If you want to ensure your pupils get maximum protection from the harmful effects of UV rays, here are two helpful adjustments you can make to your school:
Clothing is one of the best ways to protect the skin from UV rays, but some fabrics are more protective than others. Generally, heavy, synthetic and lustrous fabrics offer greater UV protection than lighter, natural, matte fabrics. Brightly coloured and dark fabrics are also better than lighter colours. Finally, the more skin covered, the better. Long-sleeved shirts and trousers block out more UV than short sleeves and shorts. If you're thinking of redesigning your school's uniform, keep these sun-safe factors in mind. You can also ask your uniform manufacturer to provide you with the UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) of their available fabrics; the higher the UPF, the better. Schools that don't have uniforms may want to instate a dress code recommending or enforcing sun-safe clothing choices. Consider also allowing students to wear hats (preferably broad-brimmed) and sunglasses in school colours for additional protection.
If like most schools across the country, you have a short, mid-morning break and a longer lunch break in your timetable, you may want to consider rearranging lunch and recess so more time is spent outside before 11 AM. The midday hours (11 AM to 3 PM) are often the hottest, and lunchtime usually falls into this time period. Allocating less time to lunch and moving that time to mid-morning recess means students will get less exposure to peak UV levels.
If you don't have shade sails on your school grounds, you only have a few, or your existing ones are old or worn, shade sail installation could make a big difference to your school's UV protection. The main function of shade sails is to protect outdoor areas from the sunshine, and they offer remarkable protection from UV rays. They also have the added benefits of providing ventilation, protection from rain, and an attractive events area. It's a good idea to have a large area or several smaller areas covered by shade sails so all children can stay out of the sun if they want or need to. Remember that even high-quality shade sails will suffer UV degradation over time. If it's been several years since you installed your shade sails, you may want to replace them to ensure your students are getting maximum protection.