The ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) have today (16 July) launched their open water safety initiative, Swim Safe 2015, as new research reveals that a fifth of children in England have got into difficulties in open water, with that number increasing to a quarter in South Shields1.
The findings also showed that while parents are becoming more aware of the dangers posed by swimming in seas and lakes, 22 per cent of parents in South Shields do not believe cold water would affect a child’s swimming ability. This is despite RNLI warnings that swimming in temperatures below 15 degrees celsius can seriously affect your breathing and movement2.
Furthermore, nearly half (43 per cent) of parents in the area wrongly believe that if their child can swim in a pool, they will be safe in the sea, and 13 per cent admit they don’t always supervise their children when they are in the sea or open water.
“Open water can be very unpredictable; even calm, shallow waters can quickly become dangerous, so it is essential that both children and parents know how to stay safe…”
The statistics are released as the national governing body for swimming, the ASA, and the RNLI, the charity that saves lives at sea, return to Sandhaven to run Swim Safe, which this year is also supported by British Olympic Open Water Swimming Medallist, Cassie Patten, and Swimming World Champion Mark Foster.
Now in its third year, the joint national initiative gives young people aged between seven and 14-years-old the opportunity to learn about the differences between swimming in a pool and the challenges of swimming in an open water environment.
Jon Glenn, Head of Learn to Swim at the ASA, said: “Swimming in the sea or in lakes is great fun, especially when you are on your summer holidays, but it is also a lot different to swimming in a pool.
“Open water can be very unpredictable; even calm, shallow waters can quickly become dangerous, so it is essential that both children and parents know how to stay safe.
“The findings from our survey show that while many parents are very knowledgeable about the potential risks, there is still a lack of awareness about how water temperature can impact on a young person’s swimming ability. The results also showed that parents don’t always supervise their children, which is a particular worry.
“That’s why as part of this year’s Swim Safe programme we have also provided specific information to remind parents of the need to supervise their children while they are out swimming or playing in the water, and who to call on for help if required3.”
Pip Hare, RNLI Coastal Safety Manager, said: “Combining the water safety knowledge of RNLI lifeguards with the expertise of ASA swimming teachers allows us to provide children with the skills and knowledge they need to keep safe in open water.
“We’re lucky to have some fantastic stretches of coastline and beautiful inland waterways in and around the UK, and the summer holidays are a great time to explore them. However, we urge families to always swim at a lifeguarded area and remember that, although the weather may be hot, any stretch of open water can still be very cold.
“Cold water can quickly make you tired and short of breath while open water may often hold hidden hazards, so it’s important to make sure that children are closely supervised when swimming.”
Since Swim Safe launched in 2013, more than 6,000 children have taken part in the free programme, with 652 taking part in the sessions at Sandhaven Beach in 2014. This year the programme has expanded to six locations, with space for up to 12,500 young people to participate and gain valuable open water safety advice and experience.
The sessions are run by experienced ASA teachers and RNLI Lifeguards. Debra Willison, an ASA Swim Safe teacher in Sandhaven, South Shields, said: “Swim Safe really does work. I met a couple whose son had taken part in a Swim Safe session last year. They told me that shortly afterwards they went on holiday abroad and the boy found himself out of his depth and got into difficulty.
“Although shaken, he remembered what he was taught by the Swim Safe teachers and managed to stay safe and call for help. This is absolutely what these sessions are all about and I’m incredibly proud to be part of such an important, life-saving initiative.”
The free 40-minute sessions take place during the school summer holidays at Sandhaven Beach, South Shields, between 20 July – 8 August. Other locations are Lake Windermere, Boscombe in Bournemouth, Bude Sea Pool in Cornwall, and for the first time this year, in Jersey and on the Isle of Man.
For more information about Swim Safe, including location and session times and how to book on to a session, people can visit: www.swimming.org/swimsafe
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