Monday, July 6, 2009

School bans sunscreen as temperatures soar

Ludicrous isn't a world where climate change means that we will be suffering colder winters and hotter summers that a school would ban children from bringing in sunscreen.

When I began my blog about 18 months ago, I thought it would be about writing but decided I probably didn't have much to say that would be particularly interesting.

But now I am motivated to join that world of bloggers to put my view across.

For a quick summary of what I've been up to see below.

It all began when my daughters came home from a school sports day badly sunburnt. I asked the classroom teacher to remind my youngest daughter to reapply her sunscreen at lunchtime and asked if it was okay if the older daughter came in to put some on at lunchtime too. All fine and dandy.

Until the following week, my youngest daughter came home and informed me that they had been told in an assembly that they were no longer allowed to bring sunscreen in to school because some children might be allergic to it. I thought perhaps she was confused, that perhaps it needed to be kept in a cupboard...but no. When I queried the classroom teacher, she told me that the staff had had a meeting about it last week and that was what had been decided.

I then decided to follow up with the head teacher, to no avail. She was in no way prepared to listen so I felt I had no option but to take the matter further.

My position is that I wish my daughter to be able to bring sunscreen in to school and reapply it at lunchtime if necessary. The three other primary schools in our town all actively encourage this. Given the increasing risk of skin cancer and sun damage and the fact that the most damage is done in the first 15 years of life, I would think that the sense of this would be self evident.

The school's position is that there is a danger of children sharing sunscreen and some children might be allergic to some of the ingredients. Now we are not talking peanut allergies and anaphalactic shock here, otherwise the school should ban sunscreen altogether as most children would have it on their skin. What we are talking about is a skin allergy, some spots, perhaps a rash. My daughter is 9 and is herself allergic to some sunscreens. She knows only to use her own, just as she knows she can't have her face painted because her skin reacts. One of her best friends is wheat intollerant. This girl knows that she shouldn't share lunches because it is bad for her. The school hasn't banned sandwiches though!

Shouldn't we be educating our children not to share medicines and that sunscreen is like that? My daughter has an asthma inhaler and she doesn't share that. In fact she is allowed to self administer that.....The common sense approach would seem to be that if the school is so worried about children sharing sunscreen they should simply put it in the cupboard with other medications in the class. But no, that was too difficult for the school. I suggested that I would be happy to get a letter from my gp to say that my daughter needed sunscreen to be reapplied.

This was fine, but I would have to come to the school at 12 o'clock to reapply the sunscreen. Again, a ridiculous suggestion. Not all mother's have the luxury of being able to come down to the school during the day.

The school has also suggested cross contamination is a concern. I would really like someone to explain this to me. Does this mean they might get swine flu from touching someone's sunscreen bottle?....I'm really confused here.

In addition, the school has said that teachers don't have time to apply sunscreen to children. In this they have totally misrepresented what I am asking. Don't put it on them! Let them put it on themselves! My daughters have been doing this since they were four years old. Isn't it more important that they develop an understanding and awareness of the need to be careful in the sun?

All my Australian friends are laughing. They cannot believe that such a ridiculous rule exists. Even worse that the school governors support this stance and are putting the health and well being of children at risk.

I've provided six hour sunscreen for my daughters. The label says...up to six hours. So in hot and sweaty classroooms, with children running around, the most I can hope for is that it lasts till 2pm. What about after school sport, what about walking home? What about the fact that I should be able to choose the appropriate sun care for my child?

So what should I do??? I'm giving up on the media interviews for now, I've made my point. But there are more than one way to skin a cat. And this cat certainly didn't like having it explained to her by the school head that 'in our culture, we don't .....' I live in the UK, I pay taxes, I was born what point am I not part of the culture???

I'd love to hear what other people think. It's lovely for people to ring me up to say they support my stance, for strangers to say 'well done' in the street but I'd really love to get the message across and that means showing that public and local opinion is on my side. And for anyone else whose school has a similar policy....Come on, time to demand a change.

And to those many parents at the same school who still put sunscreen in their children's bags...what kind of message do we send our children about rules...that they are optional?? If there is a silly rule, let's change it. Don't just ignore it.

Oh well, back off my soapbox, I'll probably be back in another year or so. I'm just yesterday's news. Such a shame my children's books never warranted nationwide tv coverage!!!!


  1. I'm with you all the way, Cat. You don't have long left and the weather might not support you, but I'd be inclined to get a sun-burned child and do a test case prosecution of the school for not taking 'due care'. Even a solicitor's letter that you intend to do it might be enough.

    If they won't allow sunscreen, they must not allow the children outside in the sun. Once the staff have to corral the children indoors all day, I suspect they will change their minds!

  2. From Sandy, via facebook

    Hey you poms get wise and slip slop slap!
    Basal Cell Carcinoma is a cancer of the skin. The skin is the largest organ of the body. It serves as a protective barrier between us and the environment, keeping water in and infection out.

    Both my husband and I have had basal cells burnt off for years and have now been prescribed Efudix cream. Here's the tech specs - used as part of a chemotherapy regime aimed at palliative treatment of malignant tumours of:
    - Breast (ranging from mild and early to late and inoperable)... Read More
    - Colon
    - Rectum
    - Stomach
    - Pancreas
    We leave the house everyday (winter through summer) with sunscreen. Our moisturisers contain sunscreen and yes we live in Australia but when we were young and at school we couldn't have imagined this!
    Get with it and learn from the colonials...any skin damage, particularly in youth will pose problems in the future!