Nichola Baldwin, Research and Insights Manager, RLSS UK

The Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS UK) has been caring for families for over 130 years, with a proud history of helping to reduce the number of lives lost to drowning. Since 1891 we’ve been sharing our expertise in water safety, lifesaving and lifeguarding to educate everyone to enjoy water safely.

With the aim of increasing the prevalence of classroom-based water safety education, RLSS UK have launched the Water Smart Schools Award. This free accreditation programme has been developed for primary, secondary, further and SEND settings in a bid to ensure that all children, no matter their background, have the same opportunity to learn how to stay safe in, on and around water.

Knowledge and awareness of vital water safety skills will not only help keep children safe, but also enrich their opportunities to engage in water-related activities and play.

How does it work?

Developed by education experts; the Water Smart Schools Award programme provides a clear framework which enables schools to easily and effectively impart this essential knowledge within their school communities, to an excellent standard.

The initiative provides registered schools with all the necessary materials to deliver class-based water safety education, utilising our tried and tested, adaptable lesson plans and resources. An holistic approach allows whole school / community involvement, provides School Council with an excellent project base and fosters greater understanding of water safety issues, both locally and further afield.

On completion, a school will receive an accreditation award certificate at one of three challenging and exciting achievement levels: bronze, silver or gold, valid for a period of two years.

Why is it important?

In 2022, there was a 46% increase in the number of accidental fatalities amongst children, compared to the 5-year average. 35 accidental child fatalities were reported – meaning the equivalent of a classroom of children drowned in 2022.

Access to swimming tuition and water safety education differs widely across the UK and there is often a disparity for those from low-income and ethnically diverse family groups. The 2022 Active Lives Survey shows that only 34.7% of children from low-affluence families are able to swim 25m unaided, compared to 76.4% of children from high-income families. This means that children from low-affluence families are half as likely to be able to swim 25m unaided.

RLSS UK’s Education Manager, Andy Lane says,

“RLSS UK is committed to reducing and removing barriers to swimming attainment and water safety education. We believe that water safety knowledge is best achieved through sustained learning, expanding knowledge, and embedding skills to affect good decision-making and behaviours.

To enable schools to reach an accredited standard of excellence in water safety education, we have created the Water Smart Schools Award – a flexible and adaptable programme that can be applied to any learned environment with agility and ease, including Primary, Secondary, Further and SEND settings. 

Participating schools work towards accreditation at one of three fulfilling and challenging levels, bronze, silver or gold, utilising our tried and tested, easy-to-deliver class-based lesson plans and associated resources.  

Water Smart Schools provides the materials needed to give all children, irrespective of gender, ethnicity or religion, the knowledge, skills and understanding to enjoy water safely.”

How can schools sign up to Water Smart Schools?

If your school would like to be one of the growing number of schools taking part in this brilliant scheme, all you need to do is visit the RLSS UK website to learn more about Water Smart Schools.

Once you’re ready to commit to taking part (whether now, or at a set time in the future), there is a short form to complete to register your school. All resources and support for the duration of the programme are free of charge.

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