Wednesday 16 November 2011

Review Summary: Students with Special Needs

This section was reviewed by staff, board, and parents in term 3 this year and it was great to see so many responses from parents.

Most of the review comments were very positive, both about the content and about their school’s implementation of it. Principals and boards – please check your Implementation feedback, many reviewers had very school specific comments or issues.

We have made a number of small changes which you can see on the Draft topics (links are on the Upcoming Changes page on the Demo site).

The biggest changes have been made to Reading Recovery (including a new topic) and English Language Learners (Non English Speaking Backgrounds, as was).

Note: Many schools have school specific topics in the Special Needs section. If you do, check your version against our draft versions and advise us which, if any, of our proposed changes you want incorporated.

Please note that we are developing a Dyslexia topic at the moment.  We hope to have that available as a draft for you to consider early next year.

Note: The Perceptual Motor Programme (PMP) topic is optional. If you no longer run the programme, let us know and we’ll remove it from your site. Or, if you want it now, please send us the details and we’ll put it on your site. Likewise Reading Recovery.

Successful Reviewing

The review process gets better and better – we’re very heartened by the way schools are using the process. Many boards/syndicates/staff groups are reviewing at specific meetings and sending their ratings and feedback individually or as a group. We all benefit from the experience, knowledge, and  suggestions of the reviewers.

When we collate the reviews we generally end up with a number of points to follow up and we carefully consider changes we make to the topics. Before advising you of the draft topics, we normally run them past a subject matter expert which I guess we could consider another “review”. We exhort you to read the implementation reviews provided by your school community, and follow up on school specific issues raised there.

It was good to have so many reviews from parents and we want to encourage this!

We observe that there are things that some schools need to do to enhance their review process. They are:
  • Check that the review instructions you give to reviewers, particularly your parent reviewers, are up to date.  You can cut and paste the instructions from your dashboard, and they are also in the topic Review Instructions. We dispensed with the passwords (bin, sin, pin) earlier this year.
  • Before advising the school community of the review, check that your school specific details are correct. We’re not talking about the content of the topics, just things like roles and names, etc.
  • Explain that the review is of the topic on your SchoolDocs site and advertise its URL. We still sometimes get people reviewing from the Demo site or Model site (neither of which contains your school specific material).

Review Summary: Appointment Procedure

It’s great to see the level that boards are engaging with policy reviews. Clearly boards are looking at the topics for review, and suggesting improvements, querying points and examing how it all works at their school. Exactly what a review should do.

It’s great to see the level that boards are engaging with policy reviews. Clearly boards are looking at the topics for review, and suggesting improvements, querying points and examing how it all works at their school. Exactly what a review should do.

Most reviewers were happy with the topic and felt that the appointment procedure worked well. We’re pleased to hear that our forms and guidelines are appreciated and useful.

A few reviewers pointed out that the school specific material on their site was no longer current. This is out of our control and we urge schools to check these details. Have a look at the Appointment Procedure topics on the Model site ( – use your admin username and password) to see where the school specific content is. Check what you have on your site. You can email us changes which we can action almost immediately. We have alternative topics for Catholic Schools which can be seen on the Demo site ( Usually schools choose these when they fill out the tailoring questionnaire, but they can be added to sites at any time.

You’ll see from Upcoming Changes that we have made some small changes to the Appointment Procedure topics. Some of these are to acknowledge the use of the internet and email in the process, and some are to clarify or expand on a point. For example, we have made it clear now that the board ratifies the appointment committee’s decision before the successful candidate is notified.
Other review comments that we’ve discussed at SchoolDocs are:
  • Time frames – a reviewer suggested that an outline of time frames for the complete appointment process would be helpful. We think that there are many variables that can affect time frames, such as the position advertised, the school size, circumstances of the position becoming vacant, etc. This is something schools decide on when considering advertising the appointment, and there is a bulletpoint in the appointment package topic that refers to “the timeline” of the procedure.
  • Keeping interview notes in case an applicant requests them – we’d be interested to know if this situation has arisen in any schools. As we understand it, schools can refuse requests for the interview notes on the grounds that it breaches the Privacy Act. (Specifically, Part 4 Good reasons for refusing access to personal information, 29 (1) b and (3). ) To summarise (sort of), it states that releasing evaluative or opinion material gathered to “determine the suitability, eligibility, or qualifications” of a job applicant breaches the express or implied promise of confidentiality of the person who supplied the material.
  • The 90 day employment clause – there is no mention of this clause in the Collective Employment Agreement, and NZEI has told us that they don’t think it applies to schools. We are still checking this, but at this stage have decided to leave it out of our document.
  • Right of Appeal – once again, we’d like to know how often this happens in schools – NZEI tells us that it is very rare. It would come under Personal Grievance in the Collective. We haven’t mentioned it in our document.
  • Reimbursement for interview costs – in the topic Shortlist Applicants, we say “Negotiate in advance any travel expenses incurred by the candidate”.  That’s as detailed as we want to get, the negotiation bit is school specific. However, there are mileage rates in the Collective…
  • Board members involvement in the process – a reviewer suggested that board members be given the opportunity to “sit in” on appointment committee meetings and even interviews as a learning experience – to observe, and understand how decisions are made. Sounds like a great idea and something schools could consider for particular board members and appointments.
As always, we invite your comments on this blog entry. We are interested in your thoughts and experiences and think you should share them with the SchoolDocs community.

Thursday 15 September 2011

Phones at School

We once wrote a cellphone policy for a primary school. It was one line - cellphones are not permitted at school. But things have changed...

Many schools now communicate with students and caregivers by text message.

Communicating in emergencies has been a big issue this year through quakes, floods, tornadoes, and snow!
Keeping a cellphone charged and topped up is an important part of every household's emergency planning along with a torch with batteries, etc. When the power goes out, it's your best way to check geonet.

Here in Canterbury, lots of school age children have suddenly had phones bestowed upon them by parents who've made the terrifying trip to school post quake and I suspect it would be a losing battle for schools to ban them now.

But phones have changed too. They're clever multi talented little devices that do more than allow communication via text or voice. Who hasn't furtively checked their TradeMe auction by phone in work time? Ha! No, I'm not going to admit it either.

Our cybersafety policies include the use of cellphones from a cybersafety and computer safety angle. Should we have another policy that spells out where and how phones may be used at school, where they may be kept (they're expensive little things)? How would it work?

What happens at your school now?

Please share your experiences on this - communication is a very important issue.

Tuesday 16 August 2011

2011, a great year

I know it isn't, but it FEELS like the end of the year. Please add to the list of the things we've survived this year (so far):

Two thousand and eleven’s going fast
And there’ll be some relief when it has passed
We know that time eventually will deaden
The pain of things that nearly did our head in

So just for now, let’s keep the pain alive
And list the stuff that so far we’ve survived:

Floods, high winds, gales, acts of God
Callouts of the Armed Offenders Squad
Unscheduled closures due to too much snow
And scheduled visits from the ERO

Mumps, measles, flu, and chicken pox
Allergies, and anaphylactic shocks
School camps, concerts, and the school production
Building renovations and construction

Earthquake damage, cracking, aftershocks
Broken pipes and windows, fallen rocks
Sharing sites and using portaloos
And being interviewed for TV news.

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Review Summary: Documentation and Self Review

Documentation and Self Review was reviewed by school boards last term and we have made some changes to the topic as a result.

We believe that SchoolDocs gives schools great tools for the important task of reviewing: advisories, a review schedule, the self review tool itself, and policies that are clear and up to date (thus easy to review). We know that these tools are much appreciated by boards.

Tools aside, the stakeholders still have to actually do the reviewing and we are pleased to report that the number of schools taking part increases with every policy review. Many schools organise to review and submit their feedback and rating at special review meetings, boards at board meetings, staff at syndicate meetings, etc.  Whether feedback is submitted as a group, or individually, the opportunity for discussion is invaluable.

A number of interesting points were raised in this review, some have resulted in changes to the topic and some are just interesting. Some need to be addressed by individual schools and we urge you to check your implementation feedback.

An important point raised was that our Documentation and Self Review topic concentrated more on policy reviews through SchoolDocs than on other reviews undertaken by schools.  We have addressed this in our draft topic .

Many schools feel that their community engages more with the policies now that they are online and they are invited to participate in reviews, while other schools find this participation difficult to achieve. Here’s a list of suggestions for encouraging participation:

  • Use the instructions on the dashboard to advertise reviews to the relevant groups.
  • Convene special review meetings (board, staff, syndicate, parent groups, etc) when a policy is under review.
  • Advertise the site regularly in your newsletters – the URL and the community username and password.
  • Have a link to your SchoolDocs site from your school website – there are instructions for this on your dashboard.
  • Read the implementation feedback submitted to your school and, where appropriate, report back to your school community about points raised, actions taken, etc.
  • Direct the school community to the What’s New topic on the site where new or changed content is listed.
  • Let your community know that they can send feedback on a policy even when it is not due for review by clicking the Send Feedback button in a topic. This generates an email to the principal.

Review Summary: Employer Responsibility

In term two this topic was reviewed by school boards and staff. Generally, the ratings were very high for both content and implementation, with most review comments very positive. There were two recurring themes, however…

  1. EEO. It’s true, schools are no longer required to publish an EEO programme each year. We have changed the topic to say this.
  2. Many reviewers were unhappy with the wording, ”recognises the needs of ethnic and minority groups, and the requirements of women and persons with disabilities”, objecting to the “lumping in of women with minority groups and the disabled”, and wondering what women’s special employment requirements are. We decided to remove the entire bulletpoint from the topic, and put it in the draft EEO topic with wording that better reflects the spirit of the EEO policy (recognises the value of diversity in staffing (for example, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, hours of work, etc) and the employment requirements of diverse individuals/groups).
In the EEO topic is a link to the Ministry of Education’s EEO Planning Resource which (among other things) talks about the value of diversity in a school’s staff. Just to summarise, very roughly, some of the benefits of diversity are that with a bigger range of people there’s a bigger opportunity to find someone you can relate to; a greater selection of role models, the opportunity to learn new things, and new ways of doing things, and great value in learning to work with, and deal with, people whose needs might be different from our own.
Some reviewers mentioned specific concerns and, as usual, we urge schools to check their implementation feedback and address any issues raised there by members of their school community.

Dogs at School

So the issue of dogs at school rears its head again, although it's possibly issues from the other end that are the problem. What happens at your school?

A couple of schools have asked us about dogs at school policies. We have one if anyone wants it. It says "dogs are not permitted on the school grounds at any time". It seems that schools have different tolerances in this area, and probably very different experiences and problems.

What's it like at your school? Are dogs a problem? Do you have/want a policy about them?

On 24 August 2011, John said: "We have a Canine Educators programme where we have identified staff owned dogs, that have been independently assessed and passed a specific course to be certified as a SNBS Canine Educator. We have signs around the school where we state Canine Educator Dogs Only."

And Graeme Sullivan said: "We do have a dog policy.We believe dogs are part of the community and family life. Children should be given the opportunity to learn about how to approach dogs. So we have a policy that allows dogs into school under controlled conditions. Not everyone agrees with this but so far so good. The policy has been working well for five years."

The Peanut Peril

As mentioned in a (much) earlier blog entry, we hear of increasing numbers of children with potentially life-threatening allergies. How do we keep them safe at school?

There are plenty of things that children can be allergic to, but peanuts beat the others for causing anaphylactic shock, and reactions to peanuts can be triggered by such tiny amounts. In a sensitive individual, symptoms can occur after exposure to 1/800th of a peanut. You don't even have to eat it, it might be transferred by hand, on a surface, through a hug, etc. It's hard to avoid the peanut peril altogether because peanuts are used in so many things, including as thickeners, as cooking oils; and exist as traces through cross contamination with exposed items.

So, how do we protect allergic children at school? Do we educate the school community about the dangers of peanuts, and sharing food generally, and hand hygiene, etc etc. Do we ban peanuts outright? Do we avoid "shared food" at special morning teas/lunches?

What challenges have you had with allergies at your school? Have you had to use an Epipen on anyone? Does everyone at school know how to use one?

Good news: many children outgrow peanut allergies (don't test this at home!), and scientists are genetically modifying peanuts to rid them of the problem causing proteins.(And shrimp, apparently - good news for seafood allergic types!).

Monday 9 May 2011

Reverse Evacuation

All schools have evacuation plans and drills for emergencies such as fire and earthquake, events that are rare but nonetheless possible, and potentially catastrophic.

All schools should also have reverse evacuation plans and drills for events such as tornadoes and armed bank robbers loose in the area, events that actually both happened last week.

All SchoolDocs schools can use the guidelines on the Demo site to check their plans against, or to create a plan for their school. 

We cannot stress enough how important it is to have a comprehensive, well-researched plan for your school, and to share this plan with your local emergency services. We also recommend that you upload your plan to Readynet ( and keep a printed copy of it in your Emergency Procedures folder, but do not publish it on the web or make it available to the wider school community.

There are many things to consider in the development of a reverse evacuation plan. You must take into account the specifics of your school, eg, its location and layout, potential risks, communication systems, etc. Our guidelines will help you through the process.  

Don’t wait until the major road accident happens right outside the front gate, or the enraged pit bull is chasing the new entrants around the adventure playground, or the strange funnel shaped cloud is rushing your way, or the frogs are falling from the sky (hey – it could happen- Do it now!

If you’ve been in a reverse evacuation situation, tell us about it.

If you’ve made a plan, tell us how and when and why.

If you’ve used our guidelines, give us some feedback.

Monday 2 May 2011

Term Two Already?

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, and colds, sniffles, and the flu. 

In Canterbury, the flu vaccination is being offered free to all people under 18. Hard to turn down really. It isn't effective straight away so people need to get it as soon as possible for maximum protection when the flu arrives. 

Something to mention in the newsletter?

What impact have winter illnesses had at your school over the years? Any good harrowing tales of students and teachers dropping like flies? Any successful initiatives such as provision of hand sanitiser? 

Any tips you swear by for avoiding illness - Vicks First Defence, strings of onions round your neck, propolis lozenges, keeping two metres away from students at all times? 


Thursday 21 April 2011

Review Summary: Recognition of Cultural Diversity

Most New Zealand schools have several cultures represented on their rolls and do well embracing this diversity and valuing each student and family in their community. Schools celebrate their different cultures in various ways throughout the year, and most of the comments from reviewers were very positive.

This topic was reviewed in the first term this year by board, staff, and parents.
Most New Zealand schools have several cultures represented on their rolls and do well embracing this diversity and valuing each student and family in their community. Schools celebrate their different cultures in various ways throughout the year, and most of the comments from reviewers were very positive.
Reviewers gave the content high marks generally and felt that it was clear and thorough. Reviewers were less happy with the implementation of the policy, however, and we urge school principals and boards to look at their implementation reviews and discuss the matters raised.
Several schools have non-generic versions of this topic and other schools may wish to in the light of their implementation review. There is no customisation charge for this, it is part of the standard SchoolDocs offering and asked about in the tailoring questionnaire. 
Some reviewers felt that Maori culture was overemphasised and that the content failed to acknowledge all cultures and people as equal in New Zealand. The fact is that Maori has a special place in New Zealand – to quote from the New Zealand Curriculum online: Te reo Māori is indigenous to Aotearoa New Zealand. It is a taonga recognised under the Treaty of Waitangi, a primary source of our nation’s self-knowledge and identity, and an official language. By understanding and using te reo Māori, New Zealanders become more aware of the role played by the indigenous language and culture in defining and asserting our point of difference in the wider world.
At SchoolDocs we acknowledge that while each individual has equal rights and status in New Zealand, our Maori culture has a unique position, and schools have legal requirements and specific goals relating to Maori students. These must be reflected in each school’s policy or ERO will certainly notice.
The SchoolDocs topic lists ways in which schools recognise cultural diversity;  feel free to email us specific ways you celebrate at your school and we will include these on your site.

Review Summary: Staff Leave

We were pleased, again, to see a large number of reviews for this topic. Both the content and the implementation were rated highly and we have made a few changes to the topic as a result of review comments. The draft topic is on the Demo site and will be rolled out on May 31.
This topic was reviewed in Term 1, 2011, by boards and staff.
We were pleased, again, to see a large number of reviews for this topic. Both the content and the implementation were rated highly and we have made a few changes to the topic as a result of review comments. The draft topic is on the Demo site and will be rolled out on May 31.
Several reviewers questioned details such as the number of days leave in the different categories in the table, and who the leave is administered by. These are details that do vary from school to school and if advised, we can change it for your school. Look at the topic on the Model School site ( and you’ll see where the variable data is. Use your admin username and password to get in. Note that the topic on the Model site is the old one but the areas for variable data are unchanged in the new one.
As you’re aware, the Holidays Act has been amended this year and now allows employees to apply to cash in a week of their annual leave. Employers are not obliged to grant this and we have followed NZSTA’s advice that boards should decline such requests. We’re interested to hear your feedback about this.
We have changed the way we link to the Collective Agreements by creating a link to the relevant page on the Ministry of Education’s website, and separated them from the list of Relevant Legislation. As always, we urge boards to look at their school's specific implementation comments and discuss as appropriate.

Monday 21 February 2011

Private Cars for EOTC Transport

Private cars have been used for transporting students to EOTC activities for years. It’s cheap, and provides parent help at a generous ratio: one parent per carload of children. But is it still a success at your school?

There are fewer people available during the day to offer themselves and their cars for trips. There are issues around safety of children in cars, specifically around airbags, and the use of seatbelts and booster seats.

The LTSA website tells us that “If the child is aged five to seven years you must use an approved child restraint if there's one available and if it's appropriate for the child's age and size. Otherwise they must use a safety belt if one is available. If there are no child restraints or safety belts available, they must travel in the back seat.

Children aged 8 to 14 years must use a safety belt if one is available. Otherwise, they must travel in a back seat.

Note: A child under 15 years old may sit beside the driver only if the child is restrained by a child restraint or safety belt (whichever is appropriate for their age and size). However, they are always safer in a back seat than in the front.”

Many parents who took part in the review expressed concerns about children travelling in cars with airbags. It’s well known that infants should never be in rear facing restraints in the front seat, but what about children? My research (on the internet) reinforces that the safest place for a child to be in a car, is appropriately restrained in the back seat. Both front and side airbags pose a danger to children in the front – there have been cases of serious injuries and deaths – but in most cases these children were not securely and appropriately restrained. A child in an appropriately sized child restraint would not be close to the airbag when it deployed and would be at least partly protected and supported by their restraint.

The important thing here is “appropriate child restraint”. Seat belts are great, but to be effective they must be fitted on the child and worn correctly. See for great photos and information about the correct fit of seatbelts. It takes time and effort – do we do it for each child that we take anywhere in our car? Do parent helpers do it on each school trip?

Modern cars tend to have both diagonal and lap belts for the middle seats, but many cars still have lap belts only in the middle seat. Children don’t fit in lap belts, and can suffer terrible injuries in the event of a crash. See for detailed information, and for diagrams of the submarining sequence.

Whether in lap belts only, or in diagonal and lap belts, children are simply not big enough to fit properly in adult seatbelts and need to use booster seats. Most (?) children of primary school age would not pass the five step test to determine whether they are big enough for an adult seatbelt ( Some adults wouldn’t either! Car seats vary (so you might pass the test in your car but not a bigger one) but generally, you need to be taller than 148 cm, and weigh more than 54 kg to fit an adult seatbelt.

So, as far as the law goes, children must be in seat belts or appropriate child restraints (if the car has them) or be in the back seat. How much further than that should schools go in setting their guidelines for private car transport?

The SchoolDocs Private Car Volunteer form mentions seatbelts along with other safety matters, but not booster seats or lapbelts. As with all of our EOTC forms, we provide it as a template and urge schools to consider their particular circumstances, views, community’s input, access to alternative methods of transport, etc, when setting their requirements for private car volunteers. If you supply one, we can upload a school specific form to your site.

Please share your views on this, and your experiences with private car transport at school. It’s tricky – the balance between being able to take the children out for EOTC activities at all, and keeping them as safe as possible.

Comment now…

On April 6 2011, Sarah Wiki-Bennett said: "Most new European cars have the capacity to turn off airbags on passengers side - how does this fit in?"

Megan replied: "I guess you would regard it then as a car without front airbags. Up to schools really to decide what requirements they will list on their parent volunteer car form - such a lot of issues to discuss."

EOTC Supervision Ratios

Many reviewers asked for supervision ratios for EOTC activities but, as with risk management levels, we cannot give a definitive statement. It is imperative that the ratios, and risk management levels, are determined by the school for each activity.

In the Supervision topic, I’ve linked to the excellent article by Cathye Haddock on the TKI website: Ratios - More Than Just Numbers (

Cathye outlines a number of considerations to take into account when setting ratios and provides examples and case studies to demonstrate them. An important consideration is the assumption that one adult equals one competent supervisor. Depending on a number of factors this may not be the case.

I’m not going to summarise it any further because I think you should read it yourself.

Please share your thoughts with your fellow bloggers after reading the article, and tell us about your experiences in this area.

Risk Levels in EOTC

Some reviewers asked us to be more definite about which activities fit which risk level. Some reviewers pointed out that some activities might only be level 1 at some schools, but could have significant risks at others. We agree completely. Read on...

We have written the entire section as a guide for schools to use in organising their EOTC activities. All of the forms are presented as templates. Every activity must be considered in the light of the organiser’s research and local knowledge. As pointed out by more than one reviewer, a walk down the street could be, literally, a walk in the park in the leafy suburbs, but may involve many dangers in a busy inner city environment, or in a rural environment where there may be a highway in front of the school, farm equipment, chemical sheds, large machinery and animals, etc. The level could also be different depending on who is going on the walk and their abilities and/or issues, or the weather, or many other factors.

We believe SchoolDocs gives schools good tools to use in planning EOTC activities, but we can’t do it for you. It is ultimately each school board’s responsibility to approve EOTC activities.

It’s a sensible idea to re-use forms that the school has used for similar activities in the past, but we stress that the risks must be assessed anew each time. Things change…

We were pleased to see a lot of engagement from parents in the EOTC review. We recommend that you look at your implementation feedback and address it, and perhaps let the community know when the changed topics are rolled out.

Review Summary: EOTC

EOTC was reviewed in term 4, 2010, by parents, board, and staff. We were pleased to see great engagement from reviewers, lots of positive feedback that the policies are comprehensive and form templates and guidelines useful. The review raised a number of issues, read on and comment...

We had just rewritten this section with lots of input and research. We believe it is a comprehensive guide for schools to use when planning their EOTC activities, and that it conforms to best practice guidelines. The forms are designed as templates for schools to fill out as appropriate to their individual circumstances.

We were pleased to see great engagement from reviewers, lots of positive feedback that the policies are comprehensive and form templates and guidelines useful. Teachers commented that the process is easy to follow and a great resource in planning EOTC activities. Parents commented that it seemed very comprehensive and promoted confidence in the school’s EOTC programme. One comment from a parent summed it up well for us: “particularly reassuring as a parent. Very few of us find it easy to send our children on such activities and the reassurance of updated policies is important”.

Most of the implementation feedback was very positive with respondents feeling that the school made a good job of carrying out well planned EOTC activities. We urge boards and principals to look at their specific implementation feedback, and action as appropriate.

Three main issues emerged which we address in separate blogs and encourage you to comment on:
  1. The use of private cars for EOTC transport 
  2. Supervision ratios for EOTC activities 
  3. Risk management

On March 29 2011, Brian Gower said: "Thanks for all your work in getting this done. This is such an important area to get right in order to have good processes and information in place."

Monday 7 February 2011

Review Summary: Sun Protection

This policy was reviewed in term 4 2010 by parents, staff, and board and resulted in a large number of reviews.

We are happy to note that our policy stood up well to thorough scrutiny and we have made only a couple of changes to it. These changes are more to clarify or expand points in the policy rather than change any content. We thank Jane Armstrong, SunSmart Schools Programme Coordinator, from the Cancer Society of New Zealand for her review and recommendations.

Many people commented that the policy should be active all year round and not for only part of the day. The fact is that when we talk about sun protection we’re really talking about the ultra violet radiation from the sun (UVR) and the UVR levels in New Zealand are high during the middle of the day from October to March. Although there are very hot days outside of those times and days, they do not normally have levels of UVR that we need protection against. There are cloudy, cool, and showery days during the daylight saving months too – and the UVR levels remain high then. People stay outside longer in cooler weather but unless they are taking the sun protection steps outlined in our policy, they are being exposed to high levels of UVR.

The levels of UVR vary during the day but are highest between 11 am and 4 pm so these are the times we have used as “default” in the policy. If a school wishes to have different times on their policy, they can let us know and we will change it for their school.

While it is important to be aware of the harmful effects of UVR exposure, it’s just as important to know and enjoy the benefits of sunshine. All year round we need exposure to the sun and need to develop sunsmart habits that allow us to gain the benefits of sunlight and protect ourselves from harmful UVR exposure. Some benefits of being in the sun:

The sun not only provides the all important vitamin D but also promotes healing, improves the body’s immune system, enhances mood, and lifts athletic performance. “Outlawing” all sun exposure for terms 1 and 4 is unnecessary and possibly sends the wrong message.

There were comments that the guidelines are biased towards fair skinned people and that for darker skinned people our guidelines are overly cautious. We don’t think so, especially as we’re not talking about keeping totally out of the sun. It’s true that fair skins burn more easily, but dark skins also suffer from sun damage and premature aging. Overexposure to high levels of UVR still damages the immune system, and the eyes. Also, while it’s true that darker skinned people develop fewer skin cancers than fair skinned people, they do still develop some and are often diagnosed later when the disease is more advanced. For these reasons we feel that learning and following sun protection strategies is important for every person in New Zealand.

Eye protection was also a concern for some people. The damage that UVR does to eyes is well documented. The benefits of sunglasses for children is less clear (it’s thought that children need some exposure to UVR to develop protection against eye problems) and the logistics issues no doubt nightmarish for schools to contemplate. Sunhats (with at least a 6 cm brim) provide significant protection to the eyes. Individual schools may wish to provide and/or promote sunglasses for their students and we leave that decision to them.

There was a lot of feedback about schools’ implementation of the policy and we urge boards and principals to discuss their specific implementation feedback and report back to their communities about issues raised.

It’s important for parents who have taken the effort to review policies to feel that they have been counted and their voices heard. We were pleased to see so much engagement from school communities for this review.