Encouraging everyone to practice sun safety all year round is the aim of the British Association of Dermatologists.
And Sun Awareness Week, running from May 1 to May 7, 2023, is the ideal way to remind individuals and organisations of how to be sun smart.
At Hand Made Places we have experience of working with schools, nurseries and early years settings nationwide developing fun and safe outdoor spaces for learning and play.
And, as part of the Broxap group of companies, our expertise extends to the design, manufacture and installation of canopies, shelters and shades of all types.
As schools are reminded of the importance of introducing, following and updating sun protection policies this Sun Awareness Week, we explore the role of shade in playgrounds.
Choosing a school playground designer who incorporates this safety feature into projects from an early stage is among the first considerations for schools looking to protect the health of pupils as well as maximise the play value of their playground investment.
Sun Protection in the Playground
Cancer Research UK suggests all sun protection policies should be specific to each school, but incorporating three common elements: protection, education and collaboration.
It suggests considering how long pupils currently spend outdoors in the middle of the day; what sort of shade is available and whether sunscreen is correctly used in school.
Under the PHSE curriculum which came into effect in 2020, all English primary schools must now educate pupils about safe and unsafe exposure to the sun and how to reduce the risk of sun damage including skin cancer.
Skcin, a charity dedicated to the prevention and early detection of skin cancer, runs the Sun Safe Schools Accreditation programme.
Its free resources include an online policy maker so schools can create a comprehensive sun protection policy document which can be shared with parents and governors, implemented by teachers and reviewed annually.
Tools also include UV monitoring charts. Skcin says that when UV levels reach 3 or above, sunscreen and sun hats are required and shade encouraged.
When UV levels reach 5 and above, teachers should either limit time outdoors or provide shade, remembering that UV can penetrate cloud cover.
Outdoor activities due to take place between April to September, when the sun is at its strongest, should consider sun protection in the planning stages.
Strategies include investing in tree planting and shade structures, moving playground furniture to shady areas and organising activities so they make use of the shade available.
Playground shades and outdoor classrooms
Studies into the provision of shade in environmental design have defined it as ‘a built or natural intervention that provides protection from ultraviolet (UV) radiation.’
UV radiation comes naturally from the sun as well as artificially from the likes of sunbeds. While exposure to UV rays is the most efficient way to boost Vitamin D in the body, over exposure is a serious health risk.
Skcin suggests that just 15 to 25 minutes of unprotected sun exposure per day, without skin reddening or burning, should be sufficient for most people to produce the required Vitamin D levels.
Providing playground shade interventions, such as an outdoor classroom, helps to mitigate overexposure in the summer while providing facilities so pupils can still learn outdoors in the winter.
The type, size and design of playground canopy to install will depend on each individual venue and our Hand Made Places playground specialists offer a consultancy service and free site visits where required to discuss options with clients.
Our range of playground shelters, shades and canopies varies from high-quality timber structures such as the popular Darell Gazebo, which is big enough to accommodate a whole class, to shade sails such as the Westgate Outdoor Classroom.
Our clients also have access to a large catalogue of fabric canopy structures via our parent company Broxap. These waterproof canopies offer 100% UV protection and come in all shapes and sizes.
They are ideal for providing shaded study pockets, social space, covered play zones and dining areas.
The Square Conic Canopy is popular with schools with traditional, large unshaded playgrounds and comes in a range of sizes, or designs such as Kite and Snow Drop are a fantastic complement to contemporary settings.
Outdoor performances can also be accommodated with playground shelters and shades with the Varndean Amphitheatre offering protection to audiences sitting outdoors for a period of time.
Some of our playground shelter and shade collection also offers protection for belongings as well as people.