THE tragic drownings of two Wearside teenagers sparked a debate in Parliament.
Last night Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, called on ministers to learn from the deaths of Tonibeth Purvis and Chloe Fowler and make water survival skills part of the national school curriculum.
Tonibeth, 15, of Barmston, Washington, and Chloe, 14, of Shiney Row, died after getting into difficulty in the River Wear at Fatfield, Washington on a hot day in July last year.
A huge rescue mission involving more than 100 emergency service personnel was launched, but neither of the girls survived.
Addressing Parliament last night, Mrs Hodgson said: “With the warm weather upon us and the school holidays approaching, I’m pleased to finally have the chance to press ministers on how we can prevent more accidents like the tragic deaths of Tonibeth and Chloe.
“For me, schools need to do a lot more to teach children and young people about the dangers of swimming in lakes and rivers, and to give them personal survival skills if they do get into trouble.
“I hope the minister will agree that this is an important function for our education system, and agree to make it a priority within the curriculum.”
Mrs Hodgson said at the moment schools put emphasis on children being able to swim 25 metres by the end of primary school, but doing that in a calm, heated swimming pool with a lifeguard on hand is completely different to finding themselves in a cold lake or a river with a strong current and hidden hazards.
She said she agreed with the RLSS, Royal Life Saving Society, that every child is taught the basic principles of water safety education, that parents should be notified about their child’s attainment in this area and schools should have a clear understanding of what is expected from them and are accountable for it.
The Wearside MP said a recent survey showed almost 20 per cent of schools don’t know their swimming attainment rates or don’t offer swimming at all and that 51 per cent of children are unable to swim 25 metres when they leave primary.