Sunday, 25 February, 2018 - 12:30
Boy in water being sunsmart on school camp

Being SunSmart - on school camps and school excursions.  Top tips for teachers and caregivers.

AUSTRALIA has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world. In fact, two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by the time they turn 70. So being SunSmart is a vital element in your duty of care on excursions and camps. This guide will help you help your students stay SunSmart – and ensure everyone is covered.


  • Wear a hat that gives good protection to the face, neck and ears whenever you are outside from 1 September until 30 April - and when the UV radiation level is three and above at all other times. Broad brimmed, legionnaire and bucket hat styles are recommended. Baseball caps are not recommended.
  • Consider twilight camp activities at times of peak UV radiation.
  • Use a combination of skin protection measures during outdoor camp activities.
  • Encourage students to use available areas of shade when outdoors.
  • Encourage staff to act as positive role models by practising SunSmart behaviours including appropriate hat wearing when outdoors.
  • Use SPF 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen.

Adapted from the SunSmart Primary Schools Policy, Cancer Council SA

Quick Tip!
Keep in mind that some children are allergic to some sunscreens and may need a hypoallergenic sunscreen.

Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide

When UV levels reach three and above it is recommended that skin be protected in five ways – Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide:

  • SLIP on clothing that covers as much skin as possible; it’s one of the best barriers between your skin and the sun.
  • SLOP on a SPF 30 or higher, broad spectrum sunscreen 20 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply regularly.
  • SLAP on a hat that provides protection to your face, neck and ears.
  • SEEK shade when outdoors, staying under a tree and umbrella can reduce your overall exposure to UV radiation. 
  • SLIDE on some sunglasses that are close fitting, wraparound and cover as much of the eye area as possible.

Source: Cancer Council - Adapted from the SunSmart Primary Schools Policy, Cancer Council SA

YOU’VE rounded up the kids, packed the lunches and are ready for a day of fun in the sun…but before you head out, heed the 5 ‘S’s.

That’s the message from the Cancer Council’s national SunSmart program – which encourages children and their adult carers to Slip, Slop, Slap, Seek and Slide.

As part of their duty of care, schools are encouraged to develop specific policy and set procedures to minimise the danger of excessive ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure for students and staff – whether in the schoolyard or on a camp or excursion. The teacher-in-charge of camps and excursions must ensure that all participants follow the requirements of the school’s sun protection policy.

“The education authority for each state and territory will specify what obligations teachers and other staff have for protecting students. Some states may link UV protection to OH&S legislation applicable to teachers and staff. Ideally, staff organising events should consider the location and timing to avoid UV levels that are three or above,” said Louise Baldwin, Chair of Cancer Council Australia’s Skin Cancer Committee.

“When searching for venues, it’s best to look for locations with plenty of shade or schools can take portable shade if they have access to it. Cancer Council also recommends mentioning sun safety in a note home to parents. Advise them that their kids should be packing long sleeve clothing, sunnies, a broad brim hat and sunscreen.”

Exposure to ultraviolet radiation is a major contributory factor in the development of skin cancer. Ultraviolet radiation comes from both direct sunlight and “skylight” as it is scattered in the atmosphere. Ultraviolet radiation is also reflected from surrounding surfaces such as water, sand, concrete and snow. High levels of radiation are received in wide, open areas such as school ovals, even on a cloudy day.

Sun exposure in the first 15 years of life contributes significantly to the lifetime risk of developing skin cancer – which is why starting an education program from a young age is so important.

“Being sun safe is one of those habits that if learnt young, can benefit kids for the rest of their lives. Two in three Australians will be diagnosed with skin cancer by age 70 and in 2011, more than 2000 Aussies died as a result. We can drastically change that statistic if we get our kids to be SunSmart from as early as possible in life,” said Louise.

“Teachers are one of the most influential figures in a child’s life and they have the power to spread the importance of the SunSmart message. Helping kids develop an everyday routine of slip, slop, slap, seek, and slide can save lives in the long run.”

Ultraviolet radiation is high from September to April, peaking in December and January. The time of day when ultraviolet radiation is highest is 10.00 am to 2.00 pm (Eastern Standard Time) or 11.00 am to 3.00 pm (Daylight Saving Time), with 60 percent of the day’s radiation occurring within that four hour period. Damage to children’s skin can occur before and after these hours but it takes longer.

But how do you get excitable kids on a school camp or school excursion to follow the SunSmart rules?

“It’s all about routine – kids respond well to this,” said Louise. “There’s no harm in making it fun either. Perhaps when calling the roll in the morning, each child can take that as their cue to put their sunscreen on. And when the bell goes before lunch, that’s their cue to reapply. Giving the students responsibility for protecting themselves from UV not only encourages them to be in charge of their own health and safety, but also teaches them great life skills. For example, teachers can ask the students to work together in a buddy system to make sure everyone has their hat on. If they cooperate, use positive reinforcement to reward them with a special activity they can complete on the excursion or camp.”

Louise said buddy systems work well because they teach responsibility and social skills.

“Songs and games are also great fun and can be wonderful memory aides if used correctly.

“Teaching sun safety doesn’t have to be dry. It can be incorporated into areas such as music or sport time to make learning about it hands-on and fun.”