A BRAVE South Tyneside councillor took the plunge in the North Sea to learn water safety with youngsters.
Coun Ernest Gibson headed to the seafront to help launch the ‘Swim Safe’ project at Sandhaven Beach in South Shields, yesterday.
The scheme, a joint initiative between the Amateur Swimming Association (ASA) and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution, teaches youngsters how to be safe in the sea.
Coun Gibson, Labour for Whiteleas ward in South Shields and former mayor, was joined in the water by Paul Allan, 13, and his brother Steven, 10, from Byker, Newcastle.
He said: “I think this is a fantastic project and all children should be encouraged to come along and take part. They learn valuable skills which could save their lives. It’s especially important for children who live near coastlines like ours.” The boys’ mum, Marrian, 45, brought her children along after seeing the project advertised.
She said: “These two are always playing in the water, they love it, so when I saw this project being advertised I thought I’d bring them along.
“I think every child should know how to swim and be able to make sure they’re safe in water.”
The Swim Safe Sessions, for children aged seven to 14 who are able to swim 25 metres, will be held at Sandhaven Beach in South Shields.
The sessions will run until Tuesday, August 26, excluding Saturdays, starting at noon, 12.45pm, 1.30pm, 2.15pm, 3pm, 3.45pm and 4.30pm.
Jon Glenn, head of Learn to Swim at the ASA, said: “Although many children learn to swim the basic minimum of 25 metres set out in the national curriculum in their local pool, open water situations have their own set of dangers and challenges, which cannot necessarily 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 pool and in open water.
“We believe that Swim Safe is an effective intervention to ensure that children get a practical understanding of the differences.”
Pip Hare, RNLI coastal safety manager, added: “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.”
The scheme was launched last year in Bude and is expanding to take in South Shields as well Bournemouth and Lake Windermere.
ASA expects 8,000 kids to go through the programme across the three sites. To get involved, turn up or call the booking number 07508 737290. For all dates and times, visit www.swimming.org/swimsafe