Swim lessons are essential

Rye and Battle Observer letters
Rye and Battle Observer letters

From: Cllr. Sally-Ann Hart, Perryfield House, Udimore

The circumstances of last year’s tragic deaths from drowning at Camber Sands have been recently reported following the outcome of the Coroner’s inquests last week.

As one of the district councillors for Eastern Rother, I have been closely involved in the arrangements following the tragic incidents of last summer in which our thoughts remain with their families. What we have consistently maintained – and reinforced by the Coroner in his conclusions – is that people from all communities need to be better informed of beach and water safety before they get to the beach.

RDC has worked with the Local Government Association, the RNLI and the National Water Safety Forum and national campaigns are well underway.

Providing swimming lessons in schools and learning about water safety is essential. Our MP, Amber Rudd, wrote to the Department of Education on our behalf and it is very clear that the Secretary of State for Education, the Rt Hon. Justine Greening MP, agrees that swimming and staying safe in the water are important skills for life.

‘Learning about swimming and water safety is compulsory as part of the National Curriculum for PE at primary level. Pupils should be taught to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres. They should learn to use a range of strokes effectively and perform safe self-rescue in different waters based situations’.

Last year, the Government announced that it is doubling the primary PE and sport premium, which goes directly to schools to improve their provision. ‘Schools can choose to use this funding to provide additional training and instruction in swimming and water safety’.

We were advised that ‘although there are no current plans to include additional content on swimming in the National Curriculum from Key Stage 3 and beyond, secondary schools have the freedom to tailor their wider school curriculum and PSHE programme to include further teaching on water safety. We are working with the sector, including the school swimming review group, to help ensure that no child leaves school unable to meet a minimum standard of capability and confidence in swimming. In addition, we regularly provide social media support to schools to direct them to free resources and schemes, including the Swim Safe Scheme run by the Amateur Swimming Association and the RNLI’.

At the most recent RDC Beach and Water Safety Group meeting, we were advised that East Sussex Fire & Rescue has launched a Water Safety Education initiative WS² - Water Savvy, Water Safe, which will deliver multi-agency presentations to children and young people to help raise their awareness of how to keep safe in and around water, particularly of note around the unexpected power of the water. These will help equip young people with the knowledge they need to keep themselves safe in unexpected scenarios.

I would urge all schools in East Sussex (and beyond) to make and take all the opportunities available to ensure that the risk to our young people of drowning in open water is minimised as far as possible.