Schoolchildren on Wearside are being taught how to stay safe in the water as part of a campaign to prevent lives from being lost to tragedy.
The RNLI is visiting primary schools across the Sunderland area as part of the city’s annual water safety campaign.
This involves the RNLI’s community engagement team going into schools to deliver potentially life-saving messages to children aged from five to 11.
More than 150,000 children have taken part in the sessions since they first started in 1994.
Among other things, they are being taught:
l How to spot the dangers
l Always to go with family and friends and to a lifeguarded beach
l The importance of following the signs and flags
l What emergency actions they should take if they or someone else gets into trouble in the water
One of the schools the RNLI has visited is Wessington Primary School, in Washington, where headteacher Anna Young said: “Water safety is especially important in a city like ours which has both a river and a coastline, so having lifeguards in school delivering workshops on how children spot the dangers, interpret cautionary signs, and keep themselves and others safe has been invaluable.
“It’s a brilliant way for the children to learn how to respect the water at the same time as having fun.”
Nick Campbell, who is the RNLI’s community engagement supervisor, added: “Water safety is a valuable part of a young person’s education.
“The information that our charity offers to the children will help keep them safe around water.
“After taking part in the interactive lessons, pupils could actually help to save someone’s life with what they have been taught.”
The sessions in schools are just part of Sunderland’s annual water safety programme, which has seen the city council joining forces with the RNLI and the RLSS (Royal Lifesaving Society) to promote water safety.
There will also be practical sessions with the RNLI’s Hit the Surf sessions at Seaburn in May, a competition with schools to develop a hard-hitting radio advert to educate people about the risks around water and a radio advertising campaign.
The council will also be re-launching a short film warning young people about the risks of open water, featuring the friends of tragic Washington schoolgirls Chloe Fowler and Tonibeth Purvis, who died in 2013 after an innocent afternoon beside the River Wear at Fatfield, in Washington,saw them get into difficulty in the water.
Councillor Paul Watson, city council leader, said: “We want people to enjoy everything our seafront has to offer but to be aware of the dangers too, which is why we have been working with partners including the RNLI and the RLSS to raise awareness.”
Coun Watson added: “Sessions like the ones in schools are a really good way of helping people get a better understanding of how to stay safe around water.”