Year Two students, Maya Marando and Michael Bennett with their teacher, Sharon Brissoni at the Yarralumla English-Italian Primary School. Photo: Rohan Thomson
Canberra students and their teachers are leading the nation when it comes to wearing appropriate hats and following Australian Cancer Council SunSmart policies at school, according to the latest national survey.
But they fall behind when it comes to slapping on sunscreen during the day and wear rashies at school swimming events.
The Cancer Council's most recent review of SunSmart policies across Australian primary schools included responses from 61 schools in the ACT.
The results, to be published in a scientific journal shortly, show that recommended hats, including broad-brimmed and legionnaires hats are being worn by 97 per cent of local students compared with a national average of 88 per cent.
Cancer Council ACT's SunSmart Services Coordinator David Wild said it was good news to also find that 87 per cent of teachers were wearing hats during outdoor duty in the ACT compared with 71 per cent nationally.
“It's great to see teachers are picking up on these important messages and providing good role models for the kids,” Mr Wild said.
“The ACT is actually punching above its weight in many areas of being SunSmart, which is very encouraging.”
In other findings, 93 per cent of schools had a written sun protection policy compared with a national average of 76 per cent and 89 per cent incorporated Cancer Council SunSmart guidelines in their sun protection policies compared with 60 per cent nationally.
But the ACT fell behind the nation on other, serious SunSmart recommendations, according to the survey, with only 10 per cent of local schools incorporating 'rashies' for swimming in their school uniform policies, compared with a national average of 20 per cent and significantly higher rates than than in Queensland.
“This is an area which needs more work as it is really important that kids get proper sun protection when they are in the water, so they should be in rashies, or at the very least a T-shirt," Mr Wild said.
Just under half of ACT schools made sunscreen available in the classroom compared with a national average of 62 per cent.
“The thing about sunscreen is it needs to be applied just before the kids head outdoors to play, it needs to be accessible and quick, otherwise they don't put it on,” Mr Wild said.
While Mr Wild said it was an urban myth that Canberrans were exposed to high levels of UV radiation than other states or territories due to the ACT's elevated altitude, he cautioned that skin cancer continued to be the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in the ACT and the most common cancer among young people.
The National SunSmart Schools Program was first introduced to Canberra primary schools in 1999, and has seen a steady improvement in sun protection measures and shade development in schools.
Mr Wild said the latest World Health Organisation report into changes in generational UV exposure was starting to show results of a levelling off effect for melanoma rates among younger people in high risk populations including Australia.