Tuesday 11 June 2019 

I am delighted to be here today. I would like to start by thanking the Royal Life Saving Society UK for their invitation to speak to you.

I am sure we are all here today because we agree on one important thing – that even one person who loses their life due to drowning is one person too many.

During the time I have spent with the RLSS, it was clear to me that water safety is a serious issue and more needed to be done. 

That is why I established this All Party Parliamentary Group on Water Safety and Drowning Prevention.

Six years on, my current role allows me to reignite this commitment to do more.  I am pleased that in my time as Minister for Children and Families we have taken several important actions to support swimming and water safety in schools.

We have encouraged primary schools to use their share of the £320 million PE and Sport Premium to fund additional swimming lessons and train teachers.

Schools have welcomed new, free guidance packs published by Swim England. They give teachers increased confidence and knowledge to teach water safety lessons. We know that they’ve also encouraged schools to talk to their swimming providers to ensure water safety sits firmly at the heart of their pupils’ lessons.

We have worked with the Independent Schools Council to encourage more partnerships to share facilities, transport and expertise. 

And there is more to come.

New videos will be published by Swim England. They respond to teachers’ requests for more support to teach and assess water safety and swimming techniques.

We are making health education compulsory in all state-funded schools in England. Voluntary teaching will begin from this September. This guarantees pupils’ access to the knowledge they need about life saving and first aid skills.

It is fantastic to see that more and more organisations are supporting this important campaign. I welcome the involvement of Swim England, the Association for PE and the Independent Schools Council, who are playing an important part in getting the campaign to schools.

This year also sees the Youth Sport Trust joining forces with the Royal Life Saving Society. For the first time, resources for pupils with SEND are being made available in Drowning Prevention Week through the Youth Sport Trust’s ‘TOP Sportsability’ online materials.

And this is an important step forward. All pupils should have access to learn to swim and be safe in the water.

Drowning Prevention Week will see a host of activities taking place across the country. I am looking forward to visiting St Peter’s Eaton Square School next week. I’ll be seeing pupils taking part in a water safety lesson being delivered on dry land.

I am sure this will be a fun and engaging event for the pupils – but it is also their opportunity to learn skills that can save their lives.

And that is the message that I would like to leave you with.  Learning to swim and be safe in and around water is a vital life skill.

I would encourage you to support Drowning Prevention Week in your constituencies in whatever way you can.

Sign the campaign pledge. Visit a school. Tweet your support. I will be.