Water Safety Blog by Liam Govey

Water Safety

Hearing the tragic story of Dylan Ramsay, a 13 year-old that tragically drowned ten years ago, it raised a lot of questions as to whether the UK curriculum really does enough to teach children about the dangers of open water swimming.

The Department of Education states there are ‘no plans to review the current curriculum expectations for water safety’, but is there more that can be done? Speaking as someone only two years older than Dylan, I would say that swimming was certainly a part of the curriculum at Primary School. On Friday afternoons, we would make the short trip to the swimming pool for hour-long lessons. But during this time and beyond, the dangers of open water swimming were rarely highlighted.

Speaking more on personal experience, back in 2008 at the age of 13, I went swimming at the beach in Ireland during a family holiday. In a mere moment, I was swept by the tide. I started to panic, which inevitably made things worse. Thankfully my grandad was able to bring me safely to shore, but these incidents must be incredibly common, and many may not be quite as lucky as I had been that day. Open water safety may not strike many as a hot button issue, but you only have to consider how often people go to beaches and swim with their children, or even allow their children to swim unsupervised.

Though the curriculum is generally beneficial as a means to an end of educating on water safety, we have to ask if it could be more so. Lee Heard of the Royal Life Saving Society warns that ‘a quarter of children leave primary school not meeting their statutory swimming and water safety curriculum requirement’. He goes on to say that the problem is that open water in the UK rarely gets above 18 degrees celsius; therefore factors like cold water shock play a huge role in a great deal of tragic accidents. Speaking personally again, I can honestly say that reading up on Dylan’s tragic story is one of the only times I can recall seeing the term ‘cold water shock’.

At 1decision, we look to break down these barriers with our curriculum, in which swimming and water safety play a huge role. Take for instance our Early Years Portal, where we have been working on stories like ‘Red Goes Swimming’ designed to ease those initial anxieties children may have around swimming.

Moving onto our second Primary Resource Portal (Ages 8-11), our Keeping/Staying Safe module includes a lesson on water safety, in which young learners are encouraged to make the best decision on whether or not it is safe to go swimming in a reservoir. Like all of our decision-making videos, we make clear the dangers of making bad decisions without scaring children too much. Indeed our first Primary Portal (ages 5-8) includes much on staying safe, and although there is nothing explicit on water safety, the principles are evident throughout the portal.

Ultimately, we believe that the aforementioned aspects of water safety should undoubtedly play a role in the UK curriculum. Rather shockingly, it isn’t even a part of the Scottish curriculum where temperatures are even colder than in England. Why not check out our curriculum and see how 1decision’s incredible wealth of resources can be of benefit to your school? You can visit our website here, or perhaps even consider a free trial for your school.

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