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A Day With Swim Safe

Clare Parker
Sunday 2 September 2018

I had the pleasure of attending a couple of Swim Safe sessions on the beach in Brighton at the end of August. I used one of my volunteering days to increase my knowledge of the project. And my enduring memory of the day will be all the laughter.

Swim Safe is about teaching children aged 7 to 14 to swim safely. Sessions have been held across the summer both on the coast and inland.

Whilst the minimum requirement is for children to be able to swim 25 metres, many have never been swimming in open waters before the session.

Joe and Nicky, both professional swimming trainers, took the session, which was all about safety but having fun too. The first part was on the beach, learning how to attract the attention of lifeguards, how to cope with cold water shock, staying together to keep safe, and even a technique to help get a casualty closer to the shore.

Then it was in to the water – which even on a late summer’s afternoon was colder than most of the children were expecting! – and the fun really began. Decked out in wet suits and bright t-shirts, and clutching their “noodle” floats, the children made it in the water under the watchful eye of two instructors and a lifeguard.

Lots of splashing about, lots of laughter, but most of all a lot of learning being put into practice: floating like starfishes, attracting attention and doing the “crocodile” to pull along a casualty.

Finally, back on shore (and some a little bit cold), the children warmed up with a tag game, reinforcing the message of how to cope with cold shock.

Joe told me that the learning and messages are packaged up in advance through CPD lesson plans, but it’s up to the trainers to bring the material to life, and fun is definitely at the heart of it.

Parents were sitting on the beach watching the fun and games, cheering on their children. Everyone seemed to really enjoy themselves.

The hour-long sessions are free, and the children go home with a new swimming cap, a key ring reminding them of safety messages, a sew-on patch and a t-shirt. Swim Safe is available to school and youth groups, as well as sign-up on the day sessions. On the Isel of Wight this summer, around 2,000 children signed up to take part.   

I came away from the day really impressed that the children are learning a vital safety message whilst having so much fun. I’m delighted that the Lifeboat Fund is supporting this great work in its latest appeal.