Schools' sun safe education call by assembly committee

Applying suncream
Image caption Tenovus had received 9,000 signatures on a petition calling for free sunscreen for under-11s

Calls for free sunscreen to be given to under-11s at schools in Wales have been rejected by an assembly committee.

But schools should have more areas of shade and give better education about sun exposure to ensure pupils are safe in the sun, the committee recommended.

The Children and Young People Committee recommended the Welsh government provide better shelters in new schools and those which are being modernised.

It also said more education was needed about sun safety.

Cancer charity Tenovus had campaigned for free sunscreen to be given to under-11s.

The committee discussed the issue of sun exposure among children at school after the charity submitted a petition to the assembly's Children and Young People Committee signed by 9,000 people.

It had run a campaign calling for the Welsh government to provide free sunscreen to young children in a bid to stop an "alarming" rise in skin cancer in Wales.

It argued that it was necessary as research has shown that sunburn in childhood can double the risk of getting skin cancer later in life.

But the committee said other things could be done to improve sun safety among pupils without the need for providing free sunscreen.

It recommended the Welsh government provide guidelines for areas of shelter to be provided in new schools and those being modernised.

It also said attention should be given to school uniforms to ensure they provide adequate coverage for children in the sun.

And it said the government should raise awareness of current Cancer Research SunSmart advice given to schools about keeping pupils safe in the sun.

Christine Chapman AM, Chair of the Children and Young People Committee, said it welcomed the work of Tenovus to raise awareness of the issue.

"What the committee heard during this inquiry is that protecting people from the effects of sun radiation is more to do with education and the provision of information," she said.

"We believe the policies and guidelines such as those detailed in SunSmart are adequate but need better promotion and monitoring to ensure they are widely known and consistently applied."

Strong sunshine

In evidence sent to the committee Dr Richard Williams, chairman of the Dermatology Council for Wales, said he believed more shade, protective clothing, like hats, and better education was important to stop children being overexposed to the sun.

He said: "It is obvious from simple observation that many schools do not have shade in the playgrounds and children are often seen in strong sunshine without hats or protective clothing."

Dr Ian Lewis, associate director of research at Tenovus, said: "We're pleased to see that a number of points raised during the inquiry about the overall approach needed to protect children, such as the provision of adequate shade and protection offered from school uniforms, have helped form the recommendations that have been put forward by the Children and Young People Committee."

William Powell AM, who chairs the assembly's Petitions Committee, said that as a result of Tenovus' petition, "a cross-party committee of AMs has called on the Welsh Government to ensure that sun safety is taken more seriously and that young people receive more education about the dangers of exposure to the sun."

The report has now been sent to the Welsh government for consideration.

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