Water safety should start in the classroom, say councils

The Local Government Association has said that all young people need to better understand the dangers of cold water shock, tombstoning and the risks posed by tides, currents and unstable ground near water.

Speaking to mark the inaugural World Drowning Prevention Day, council leaders warned that the number of water-related fatalities increased last year despite the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, with a total of 631 losing their lives in UK waters. In total, 58 per cent of these deaths happened in inland water, with almost half of all people having no intention to be in the water, such as those walking who tripped, fell or were swept in by waves.

Research shows that almost a quarter of children cannot swim the statutory 25 metres by the time they leave primary school. Availability of swimming pools can be a stumbling block for schools with 72 per cent of primary schools relying on publicly owned swimming facilities which brings with it the additional cost of transport.

The LGA says that all primary school leavers should be able to meet the curriculum target of being able to swim this distance and perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations. The LGA says that further investment through the National Leisure Recovery Fund is needed to preserve ‘critical’ swimming pool facilities in the short term.

Nesil Caliskan, chair of the LGA’s Safer and Stronger Communities Board, said: “Every child should have access to this information and to a swimming pool where they can learn to swim, which can be a fun way to exercise, but also to keep themselves safe in water.

“The dangers associated with open water can cause you problems even when you’re not planning on getting wet, so it is absolutely crucial that people learn to respect water at a young age and know how to react if they find themselves in a difficult situation. If you do happen to find yourself in trouble, float on your back and catch your breath for a minute before swimming to safety or calling for help, as the effects of cold water shock pass in less than sixty seconds.”

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