Water safety

Free ‘Swim Safe’ sessions to help keep children safe on the beach

The RNLI and Swim England are running free ‘Swim Safe’ sessions in response to recent findings showing that children accounted for more than a third of RNLI beach lifeguard rescues last summer

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has revealed that 7,010 children were aided by RNLI lifeguards during the summer last year. The latest statistics show that more than a third of those requiring help were aged 7 to 14 – up by almost 600 (9%) on the year before – with the charity’s beach lifeguards saving the lives of 25 children.

To help keep children safe at the coast, the RNLI and Swim England are running free ‘Swim Safe’ sessions. Since Swim Safe was established in 2013, more than 160,000 children have been taught vital water safety skills.

James Woodhouse of the RNLI’s Water Safety team said, “With these latest figures showing more than a third of those requiring lifeguard assistance were children, it demonstrates why it is vitally important for children to know how to stay safe in and near the water. By educating them about water safety from a young age, together we can help reduce the number of incidents involving open water.

“As we celebrate Swim Safe 10 years on, it’s incredible to know that so many children have taken part and hopefully the knowledge they have gained, has helped to keep them, their family members and friends safe.”  

The free sessions teach children aged 7-14 how to stay safe in and around open water and what to do if they, or someone else, gets into difficulty – including how to Float to Live.

A life-saving technique

James said: “Float to live is a simple technique where you tilt your head back with ears submerged and try to relax and control your breathing. Use your hands to help you stay afloat and then call for help or swim to safety if you can – this technique is proven to save lives.”

Water safety

The 45-minute sessions are run by trained instructors during the summer at outdoor water locations including beaches and inland sites plus at water sports activity centres, other local providers, and some Royal Yachting Association centres (RYA). The RYA is the UK’s national governing body for sailing, powerboating, and windsurfing. 

Ashley Jones, Water Safety and Drowning Prevention Manager for Swim England said: ‘We’re pleased to be able to partner with the RNLI again to facilitate free Swim Safe sessions this summer at a variety of coastal and inland locations around the UK run by our local partners. 

“We want children and their parents to enjoy themselves around water but also to think about their own safety and know what to do in an emergency.”

Mother-of-three Amy Donaldson said: “I saw Swim Safe advertised and thought I want my children to be safe in the sea and what a great idea this would be for my own children. I would say to other parents, definitely bring the kids down to do it. What they’ve learnt they will remember and will help keep them safe.”

Daughter Isabelle, 11, said: “I really liked learning about floating and all the different signals to do to the lifeguards. I learnt lots and it has built up my confidence to go in the sea. If anything did happen, I know now what to do.”

The RNLI’s key water safety advice for 7-14 year-olds is:

  • Stop and think – Always swim in a safe place.
  • Stay together – Always swim with an adult, younger children should always be within arms reach. 
  • Float to Live: tilt your head back with ears submerged and try to relax and control your breathing. Use your hands to help you stay afloat and then call for help or swim to safety if you can.
  • Call 999 in an emergency and ask for the Coastguard.

To find out more and book your child’s free Swim Safe place, swimsafe.org.uk

Sign up to our newsletter for more water safety news. Photos: RNLI/Nathan Williams


Stay up to date with The Dip, our free weekly outdoor swimming newsletter.

Abi writes swimming news stories and features for the Outdoor Swimmer website and manages the social media channels. She loves to swim, run, hike and SUP close to her home in Herefordshire. While she’s a keen wild swimmer, Abi is new to the world of open water events and recently completed her first open water mile. She has previously written for The Guardian, BBC Countryfile Magazine, BBC History Magazine and Ernest Journal.