Considerations for planning shade in schools
Assemble a project team
Assembling a team of representatives from school management, teaching staff and parents, as well as relevant professionals such as architects and landscape architects, can help to ensure that the need for shade is considered within the context of other issues, including long-term development plans for the site.
Consider existing shade
It is important to note the different areas of the outdoor space of your school. These areas may include areas previously mentioned in shade planning and design considerations.
A great first step, can be to try to optimise existing shade before considering additional shade. For example, move fixed seating to a shaded area, remove low branches from trees to allow access to shady areas, and review current playground use.
How often is each different outdoor area used?
It is important to consider the usage patterns of the outdoor area, including the type of activities that occur, where they occur, and when they occur. Sufficient shade should be available at the times of heaviest use, particularly when UV radiation levels are most intense.
There should be sufficient shade for active outdoor activities such as free play, physical education classes and sport, particularly during summer.
There should also be enough shade for eating and socialising, ‘lining up’ (especially after recess and lunch) and assemblies, particularly during summer. These activities could be undertaken in covered assembly areas, active playground areas or specific passive-use areas.
Staff and children need to have a clear view of each other during teaching activities and outdoor play. Designs that may hinder supervision and views include shade structures with solid or opaque sides, or low placement of overhead sails. Trees and shrubs can also obstruct supervision if they are inappropriately located.
Does the season impact the shade?
Although summer protection is a priority, winter shade is also needed in many parts of NSW. Summer shade provision should minimise UV radiation levels as well as reducing heat and light. Winter shade provision should minimise UV radiation levels, while allowing sufficient levels of heat and light. Adjustable shade systems and deciduous vegetation may provide greater flexibility.
It is a good idea to consider climate and local weather conditions in your plans too. Factors including strong winds, and weather patterns can impact the type of shade that will be most effective.
What about UV reflecting off other surfaces?
Shade structures should be:
- Designed to minimize reflected UV radiation.
- The shade canopy should extend at least one metre past the areas of use with vertical barriers built into the sides.
- Modify or select surfaces to reduce reflected UV radiation. For example, replace smooth concrete with brick or grass. Vertical surfaces such as walls should also be made of materials that reduce reflected UV radiation.
How do I make sure children use shade?
Shade design should be both practical and attractive to encourage children to use it. An approach that combines both natural and built shade is often preferable and using a range of different shade structures can help create a more interesting play space. Attractive components include:
- coloured sails
- structures with textured sides or spaces to look through
- structures that support flowering vines
- trees, shrubs and vines with different seeding, flowering and fruiting habits (ensure these are not potentially hazardous to children).
Funding for shade
Cancer Council NSW does not currently have shade grants available.
You can fundraise within your local community to raise money for the shade, or contact your local government, banks, or Probus, Lions or Rotary clubs; there may be a grant available now that would be perfect for your shade project.
If you need a letter of support from Cancer Council NSW when you are submitting your grant application, please email the SunSmart Team.