But the Local Government Association (LGA) insists that even if parents ask primary school teachers to apply protective lotions, they should refuse. Ivor Widdison, an education expert at the LGA, said rubbing cream on children's faces, arms and legs would leave them open to false accusations which could threaten their career.
"Teachers are very vulnerable to accusations of physical and/or sexual abuse," he said.
But cancer experts have urged a rethink, saying research showed that children who suffer severe sunburn are twice as likely to develop skin cancer in later life.
Although LGA recommendations do not apply to children who are physically incapable of applying sun cream themselves, experts say a pupil's slap- dash approach could leave them at risk.
Kate Law, of the Cancer Research Campaign, said: "A lot of youngsters are going to do a haphazard, dabbing job. It is a great shame that children can't be helped."
Children under 15 are particularly at risk, she said.
Teaching unions welcomed the LGA advice, saying applying cream would cut in to lesson time and should not be the responsibility of their members. A NASUWT spokeswoman said the union already advised teachers not to put sun cream on pupils.