Sunderland students get water safety message on airwaves after tragic drowning incidents

Sunderland students, from left, Alex Peel, Faye Alexanders and Natasha Butler.
Sunderland students, from left, Alex Peel, Faye Alexanders and Natasha Butler.
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Students in Sunderland were given a taste of life behind a lens in recognition of their work to promote water safety.

Faye Alexanders, Jack Bowen, Natasha Butler, Holly Herron, Alex Peel and Taryn Wheat, from Biddick Academy, received a crash course in media, as well as a leadership tutorial, as part of a winners’ prize package for their work for a drowning prevention campaign, run by Sunderland City Council.

Natasha Butler, Holly Herron and Jack Bowen with Louise Bradford, right, from Creo Communications.

Natasha Butler, Holly Herron and Jack Bowen with Louise Bradford, right, from Creo Communications.

It comes after a number of tragic drowning incidents in the Wear. Jordan Roberts, 17, from Donwhill, drowned in the Wear at Finchale Priory in September 2014.

His death came a little more than a year after Chloe Fowler, 14, and Tonibeth Purvis, 15, drowned in the river at Fatfield in July 2013.

The deaths of three Durham students in the Wear in the space of just over a year has also added to increased concerns about safety around the river and other bodies of water, as well as along Sunderland’s seafront.

The students – who created the winning advert in a city-wide competition to create a hard-hitting radio commercial to deter young people in Sunderland from taking risks around open water – attended a session where they learned more about the media world, as well as take part in some training around leadership.

The session was organised to help them become water safety ambassadors, who can help fly the flag for staying safe among their peer group.

Faye, currently in Year 9 at Biddick Academy in Washington, said: “The session was really interesting and really fun.

“I feel much more confident as a result of taking part.

“We really enjoyed the process of developing a radio commercial, because it is a cause that we know could make a really big difference.

“Even if our work saves just one life, all of this will have been time well spent and it is great to think we may be responsible for saving parents the pain of losing a child.

“To build our skills so we can continue the work we have started is excellent, and it is something really good to have on our CV when we look for work.”

The session was held at Sunderland Software Centre and saw the students learn about the media, as well as how to inspire and lead others around them.

Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council, said that the scheme was a great way of getting young people involved, and helping give them the skills they need to make a difference by spreading the word of water safety among others.

He said: “The students who took party in the competition have already proved how articulate, bright and motivated they are.

“We hope this workshop will help them take their water safety message to others.

“We wanted to recognise the work they did to create such a strong advert, and we hope it has left the group feeling more confident and motivated to help us tackle a problem that is particularly pertinent at this time of year.”

The competition was run in schools across Sunderland earlier this year, and challenged young people to create an advert that would raise awareness of the risks of playing near rivers and the sea, and deter people from taking needless risks.

The winning students were from Biddick Academy, with runners-up from the same school, as well as Red House Academy.

Entries were whittled down to a shortlist, who presented their entry to a panel of judges and the winning advert was played on Sun FM.

For more information about water safety, visit www.sunderland.gov.uk/water-safety