Drowning Prevention Week, run by the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK), is one of the UK and Ireland’s largest summer water safety campaigns. It aims to provide children with the skills and knowledge they need to enjoy a lifetime of fun in the water. 

Lee Heard, Charity Director at RLSS UK tells us about the charity’s work lobbying the Government around the issue and why its annual campaign is so important.

“Drowning, for the large part, is highly preventable. It is the decisions we take, the perception of our own confidence and ability, in addition, the inclusion of external environmental factors such as cold water or currents that tragically change fortunes. The answers are equally easy to understand. Education and supervision in particular reduce the likelihood of an incident turning into a sudden and devastating tragedy.

“We are fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful water across the UK and Ireland. Drowning Prevention Week is now in its tenth year and the campaign is as important as it ever has been. The number of children drowning is increasing and is one of the leading causes of child trauma-related death in the UK. Over the years we, as a charity, have worked tirelessly to provide education to children through Drowning Prevention Week to ensure that every child in the UK and Ireland has the opportunity to learn how to stay safe in and around water, facilitating the love of water with safety at the forefront.

“Importantly, Drowning Prevention Week fills the gap that exists within the school curriculum. Currently, water safety and swimming are on the national curriculum in England, Northern Ireland, and Ireland, but is not specified in the Scottish and Welsh Curriculum. However, we know that there are too many children who face barriers which means they cannot access this vital water safety education, even if specified in curriculum outcomes. Even though the UK Government argues that water safety and swimming is on the curriculum, we have to ask if children are missing out in the curriculum’s current form, then is it successful? If we want to ensure that children can swim and be able to keep themselves safe in the water then I would have to say the current curriculum for water safety is not meeting the requirements needed to build knowledge, resilience and keep our children safe. We know that pre-COVID almost 1 in 4 children in England were not hitting the ‘could self-rescue’ standard and the impact of the pandemic and the impact on low-income and ethnically diverse communities has worsened.

“We have been asking the question of the UK Government for many years as to why classroom-based water safety is not on the curriculum. We recognise that getting all our children in the water is critical but teaching water safety in the classroom removes barriers and gives every child an understanding of safety, risk, and the chance to learn how to stay safe in and around the water, no matter their background.

“We will continue to ask these questions, but we cannot wait for the Government to make that change whilst more children will go without water safety education, and this is why Drowning Prevention Week is vital.

“Through Drowning Prevention Week we have created a range of resources, including lesson plans for schools to easily integrate into their existing curriculum. Each year that the campaign runs, more and more children benefit from this education. Drowning Prevention Week 2022 saw over 341,000 school children using our free resources and without the campaign, they may not have the knowledge needed to keep them safe in and around water.

“As we continue to call, initially on the UK Government to make a change to ensure all children have access to water safety education in the classroom, we also continue to provide free education resources to schools and families through Drowning Prevention Week to ensure that every child in the UK and Ireland has the necessary knowledge to prevent future drownings and importantly enjoy water safely.

“We know that no child should drown.”

To learn more about Drowning Prevention Week and to support the campaign or download resources visit www.rlss.org.uk/DPW