South Tyneside youngsters are being offered free help to stay safe in the sea this summer.
The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) has joined forces with ASA, the national governing body, to offer free swimming lessons and safety advice to children, aged between seven and 14 – starting this week.
The Swim Safe Sessions, which are for children who are able to swim 25 metres, will be held at Sandhaven Beach in South Shields.
The sessions get under way on Friday and will run until Tuesday, August 26, excluding Saturdays, with start times of noon, 12.45pm, 1.30pm, 2.15pm, 3pm, 3.45pm and 4.30pm.
The scheme was launched last year in Bude and is expanding to take in South Shields as well Bournemouth and Lake Windermere.
ASA is expecting 8,000 kids to go through the programme across the three Swim Safe sites.
Pip Hare, RNLI coastal aafety manager, said: “Swim Safe is a fun interactive programme, giving children the chance to learn key safety messages and practice survival skills, under the watchful eye of qualified lifeguards and swimming teachers. We were really pleased with the success of last year’s programme and hope to equip even more children this year.”
Jon Glenn, head of Learn to Swim at ASA, said: “Although many children learn to swim the basic minimum of 25 meters set out in the national curriculum in their local pool, open water situations have their own set of dangers which cannot be recreated during lessons in an indoor pool.
“While pool swimming is important to help improve safety for our children in general, we often forget that many children swim most often while they are on holiday.
“Some of the tragedies the country saw in 2013 may have been prevented with a better understanding of the differences between swimming in an indoor swimming pool and swimming in an open water environment.
“We believe that Swim Safe is an effective intervention to ensure that children get a practical understanding of the differences.”
Councillor Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “We are delighted that South Tyneside has been chosen as one of four areas nationally to host this wonderful swim initiative.”
If you want to get involved, just turn up on the day or call the Swim Safe booking number 07508737290. For a full list of dates and times, visit www.swimming.org/swimsafe