The ASA (Amateur Swimming Association) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) have launched Swim Safe 2015, an open water safety initiative.
Now in its third year, the joint initiative gives young people aged between seven and 14 the opportunity to learn about the differences between swimming in a pool and the challenges of swimming in an open water environment. The initiative is supported by British Olympic open water swimming medallist, Cassie Patten, and swimming world champion, Mark Foster.
According to research carried out by the two institutions, a fifth of children have got into difficulties in open water. Two thousand parents of children aged between seven and 14 years old were questioned. Their findings also show that 26 per cent of parents do not believe cold water would affect a child’s swimming ability. The RNLI define anything below 15 degrees Celsius as “cold water” and warn that swimming in cold water can seriously affect your breathing and movement. Nearly half (43 per cent) of parents were unaware of the dangers of swimming in the sea as opposed to a pool, and one in eight parents (9 per cent) admitted to not supervising their children in open water.
Jon Glenn, head of Learn to Swim at the ASA, says: “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.”
Since Swim Safe launched in 2013, more than 6,000 children have taken part in the free programme. This year it 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.
“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,” says Pip Hare, RNLI Coastal Safety Manager.
“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 will still be very cold.”
While we disagree that any stretch of water will be very cold even in summer, the programme teaches children important skills about keeping safe in open water.
For more information about Swim Safe, visit www.swimming.org/swimsafe