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New guidance to teach pupils water safety is ‘important and welcome step’

New proposed statutory guidance which would ensure schools must teach children about water safety has been hailed by Swim England as an ‘important and welcome step’ in helping to keep youngsters safe.

The Government is carrying out a consultation on its recently-published draft Relationships, Sex Education and Health Education (RSHE) guidance for governing bodies, proprietors, head teachers, principals, senior leadership teams and teachers.

If adopted, pupils will be taught the Water Safety Code as part of the national curriculum, in addition to school swimming lessons.

Swim England is encouraging people to write to the Government in support of the proposals and has created a response which can be sent to the Department for Education.

The proposed guidance states that, by the end of primary school, pupils should know how to recognise risk and keep safe around water, including the water safety code.

Further to that, by the time pupils leave secondary school, they would know how to identify risk and manage personal safety in increasingly independent situations, including around water.

Hugely positive

The Water Safety Code is a four-point fundamental spine of all water safety education which provides essential and easy-to-remember information to help people plan for their activity and understand what they should do in an emergency.

It advises swimmers to:

  1. Stop and think – always swim in a safe place
  2. Stay together – always swim with an adult
  3. Float
  4. Call 999

Philip Brownlie, Swim England head of public affairs, said: “Ensuring children have the opportunity to learn about Water Safety is something we, alongside many partners from across the sector and beyond, have been supporting for a long time. 

“Including water safety education in the personal safety element of the RSHE guidance is therefore a hugely positive step.

“Drowning remains one of the most common causes of accidental death in children aged between five and 14 years so this is an important and welcome step to help make youngsters aware of the dangers in the hope we can prevent more tragic incidents in the future.

“The Government is consulting on the proposed changes until 11 July and Swim England is encouraging people to write in support of the inclusion of Water Safety.”

Response letter

Please copy the below suggested response to the consultation and send it [email protected]

Dear Sir/Madam

RE: Review of the RSHE statutory guidance

I am writing in support of the current proposals to include water safety education as a statutory part of pupils’ RSHE lessons. This is a really positive step which is most welcome.

As an island nation with many inland waterways, it is vitally important that our children are taught how to be safe in, on and around water.

With drowning remaining one of the most common causes of accidental death in England, and drowning incidents involving children on the increase, the need for children to be equipped with this knowledge is clear to see. I understand the proposals also have the support of Swim England, the Royal Life Saving Society and many other organisations with an interest in water safety, including the National Water Safety Forum.

The content can be taught to children in the classroom environment, helping to tackle existing attainment inequalities and giving this potentially life-saving knowledge to all children, irrespective of whether they are able to access a pool for swimming lessons.

I therefore hope the Government will proceed with the proposed inclusion of water safety within the personal safety module of RSHE.

Kind regards