How to teach … water safety

The warm weather and school holidays are the perfect recipe for a summer outside. Ensure your students stay safe while they have fun by water with our lesson ideas Accidental drowning causes more than 400 deaths in the UK every year and is the third highest cause of death in children, according to the Royal Life Saving Society UK.

The risk is particularly high during warmer weather and the school holidays, so this week we have a range of resources to help you teach young people how to stay safe whether they are in, on or beside water this summer.

School swimming is a great form of exercise for children of all abilities – it boosts confidence, improve concentration and is the most effective way to teach children how to be safe around water. But a recent survey conducted by the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA), the national governing body for swimming in England, revealed that 1.1 million school children cannot swim.

With this in mind, the organisation has created a number of resources including a school swimming and water safety guide for teachers and a primary school learn-to-swim guide aimed at anyone involved with school swimming at key stage 1 or 2. It addresses some of the barriers to school swimming, such as a lack of facilities or high transport costs, and makes suggestions for raising the profile of swimming and water safety by linking it to other parts of the curriculum. In science, for example, students can explore the idea of propulsion; in maths they can make estimates and calculations based on the dimensions of a pool; in ICT they can design achievement charts or certificates; and in PSHE they can explore the health benefits of swimming.

The statutory requirement for key stage 2 is that a child can swim 25 metres unaided by age 11. Activities should progress from moving in the pool using swimming aids, to floating and using a range of recognized strokes and personal survival skills. These lesson plans for ducklings and stage 1 introduce the front crawl to confident non-swimmers. As pupils progress, they could try a game of water polo. Recognising achievement with these swimming certificates is a great way to boost pupils' confidence even further.

Alongside swimming, pupils should be taught the Water Safety Code. Endorsed by the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), the code contains advice to keep young people safe when in, on or beside water. Start by asking pupils if they've heard of the Water Safety Code. What tips do they think it might include? Can pupils suggest places other than a swimming pool where the code might apply? After researching the code, students could present their work to the rest of the school in a water safety assembly.

The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS) also has a fantastic range of resources to teach water safety and life-saving skills. These will give primary students the chance to generate a wealth of work – from posters and poems to adverts and artwork – that can be used to transform the classroom into a water safety information zone that other pupils can visit. Take a closer look at the Water Safety Code with this and poster and these lesson plans for years 1 and 2, years 3 and 4, and years 5 and 6. The charity has also created water safety quizzes, puzzles and coloring sheets.

For secondary pupils, the RLSS has created a collection of water safety presentations, supported by lesson plans and teacher's notes. The presentations are suitable for delivery by pupils and could form the basis of a water safety week where students share their learning with other classes via newsletters, demonstrations and workshops. Topics include:coastal water, inland water, dangers in the home, drowning preventionand rescue.

If a school trip is possible, another great way to learn about water safety is to visit a purpose-built interactive centre where pupils can get hands-on experience of dealing with a range of hazardous scenarios. TheSafety Centre Alliance has details of several interactive centres across the UK. Hazard Alley in Milton Keynes, for example, has a water scene that highlights the dangers of swimming anywhere other than a proper pool. Pupils consider the dangers of playing in or near lakes, ponds, rivers, canals or reservoirs, and they learn about what to do if someone is in trouble in the water. Teachers can use this worksheet to reinforce learning back in the classroom.

The Canal and River Trust (CRT) offers volunteer-led visits to local waterways that focus on water safety. The charity has also created a pack full of activities to help teach children how to be safe near water. It includes pictures, games, role play activities and assembly ideas. Water safety posters are available on the CRT website.

You'll find more water safety teaching ideas for primary pupils in the All Aboard pack from the Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI), whileStaying Safe on the Thames features a range of activities for secondary pupils.


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