Last week's headlines about schools `banning' children from bringing sunscreen to school may have caused some teachers to question what they can and can't do.
Who is responsible?
Generally parentsguardiancarers have prime responsibility towards their child's welfare and health and safety. It is, however, the school's responsibility to ensure that pupils are protected in accordance with health and safety legislation and that school staff comply with their own policies and procedures.
The Health and Safety (First Aid) Regulations 1981 requires workplaces to implement first aid policies and procedures. No employee is obliged to provide first aid to anyone other than staff, but there are still responsibilities towards non employees and pupils. Providing sunscreen in schools for everyone becomes costly, so asking pupils to apply their own is the most desirable option for all concerned.
Staff who work with young children andor children with special educational needs may apply sunscreen, in consultation with the headteacher and the governing body. However, they are not obliged to do so and may refuse following advice from their unions.
It would be beneficial for schools to take a proactive approach with parents and staff by advocating appropriate clothing, hats and adequate time in the shade as preventative measures, in addition to the use of sunscreen.
What to watch out for
A variety of complaints could ensue from applying sunscreen to pupils - from allegations of abuse to allergic reactions. Schools can seek permission to apply sunscreen from parents to minimise such complaints.
It is important that schools have clear policies (which should be drawn up in conjunction with the local authority) to deal with such matters, which are well communicated to parents.