Water Smart Schools is a brand-new accreditation initiative by the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) that is available from September 2023.  

It has been designed especially for schools to help their students develop water safety skills for life in the classroom environment, in recognition of the fact that not all schools can access poolside safety education. 

A cross-section of schools have recently piloted this new initiative and RLSS UK are delighted to share that the first two schools have both successfully achieved the Gold level of accreditation. RLSS UK congratulates St. Leonards C of E Primary School in Shropshire and Burlish Park Primary School in Worcestershire. 

Why is water safety education important? 

Drowning is currently one of the leading causes of child trauma-related deaths in the UK* and is largely avoidable through education and positive experiences around water. Sadly, access to swimming tuition and water safety skills education differs across the UK and there is often disparity for those from low-income and ethnically diverse family groups. The most recent data shared through the 2022 Active Lives Survey shows that only 34.7% of children from low-affluence families are able swim 25 metres unaided, compared with 76.4% children from high-income families. 

How can the Water Smart Schools programme help? 

Water safety knowledge is best achieved through sustained learning so that skills become embedded; positively affecting decision-making and behaviours when in, on and around water. RLSS UK’s Water Smart Schools accreditation will provide schools with a framework and all necessary resources to facilitate this.  

The programme has been designed with a specific understanding of the barriers that schools face and therefore allows each educational institution to move through at their own pace and capabilities. Achieving the award requires a holistic whole-school approach and is free to complete - all RLSS UK asks is that a donation is considered, or schools run some fundraising activity for RLSS UK. 

Andy Lane, Education Manager at RLSS UK said, “With flexibility at the heart of the programme; we are proud that the Water Smart Schools programme can be applied to any learning environment including further education and SEND settings.  

“Once a school has successfully completed the programme, they will be awarded with a prestigious Water Smart Schools accreditation at one of three levels; Bronze, Silver and Gold depending on their level of commitment. We are excited to get even more schools on board and ensure more children have knowledge needed around water safety.” 

Congratulations to our first Water Smart Schools! 

At St. Leonards C of E Primary School in Bridgnorth, 350 children came together to achieve a Gold status Water Smart Schools accreditation; taking part in water safety assemblies, activities and making use of the resources provided.  

Year 1 teacher Nicola Carter-Rix said, 

“As a school we really enjoyed taking part in the RLSS UK awards. It gave children of all ages from nursery to year 6 the opportunity to work collaboratively. The resources were engaging and easy to use and the children can now confidently talk about water safety. 

“School council worked really hard to bring the award together giving them a sense of purpose and a great opportunity share work from across all year groups.  

“The support given was fantastic and made it really easy to collect and collate our evidence.” 

The second school to successfully complete the Water Smart Schools award (also to Gold standard) was Burlish Park Primary School in Stourport-on-Severn. At this school, 61 year 2 pupils completed the KS1 lessons provided, and 59 year 5 pupils completed the KS2 lessons. A whole-school assembly was also held for their 360 pupils. 

Joseph Lindley, Personal Development and Emotional Health and Wellbeing Leader & Specialist Leader of Education (SLE) for PE said, 

“Participating in this water safety project to become a Water Smart School has been a real positive experience. PE and PSHE are key to the personal development of the pupils here at Burlish Park and so combining the two in this project has been so beneficial for the pupils. They have enjoyed participating in the lessons and thoroughly enjoyed their educational visits to different water environments to learn about the risks and dangers of water. The pupils’ knowledge has improved, and they are now more water smart!” 

If you’re interested in signing up to take part in the Water Smart Schools programme when it launches, please click here to find out more or email [email protected] 

*This can be sourced to National Child Mortality Database (NCMD), Deaths of children and young people due to traumatic incidents thematic report, July 2023.