Despite the rather foul weather we’ve had recently, summer is (supposedly) on its way.
Our charity, the British Skin Foundation (BSF), is a national charity that raises money for skin disease and skin cancer research, and we’re aiming to get 100,000 signatures to have the issue of sun safety in schools debated in the House of Commons.
Every year when the sun comes out, we get an influx of calls, mostly from worried parents, about how best to protect their child when they are at school. The problem at the moment is fairly simple - nurseries, primary schools and secondary schools in England currently have no standardised policies in terms of sun safety. Each school or local education authority decides for themselves on an ad-hoc basis what they want to action - if anything - with regards to how they stop children getting sunburnt during school hours.
It’s a huge grey area figuring out who is responsible for what aspect of a child safety. Parents naturally have an obligation to dress their child appropriately for the day, which includes how well protected they are from the sun, but this isn’t 100% guaranteed to work as there are bound to be exposed areas of skin still. Children by their nature will run and sweat, removing the sunscreen any careful parent may have applied in the morning before school, even if it is a ‘once-a-day’ formula, so what then? Should schools be allowed to top up sunscreen on a child without fear, or is this a responsibility completely down to the parent?
We’d like the government to clarify the parameters of responsibility, so there is no confusion between parents, schools and local authorities as to which body is responsible for what aspect of a child’s sun safety during school hours.
As recently as 2009, the issue of children’s sun safety in schools has been raised in the House of Commons. What’s more, a previous survey of 1,000 parents commissioned by MPs on the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Skin (APPGS), found almost 40% of pupils have suffered sunburn while at school. It’s a massive percentage and something that needs to be dealt with especially when you take in the fact that skin cancer is a growing issue in the UK, and about 80% of damage to the skin caused by over exposure to the sun is achieved by the age of 20.
Sian James MP, chair of the Melanoma Taskforce, feels strongly about the issue and the need for better clarification. She says: “There can be no hesitation in providing the appropriate guidelines to protect children and I see sun safety protection as being essential. We need clear and specific advice that schools in England can follow so that any element of ‘confusion’ is removed.”
Until this issue is resolved, children will continue being hurt unnecessarily, so we’re hoping this petition will mark a starting point for change.
To sign the petition and get this issue raised at the House of Commons, visit: