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Swim Safer – free classes and advice make water safety top priority for school holidays

Published: Thursday, 19th July 2018

Swim Safer – a campaign offering hundreds of free water safety sessions – has been launched today with one aim in mind: to keep children in Stoke-on-Trent safe when swimming during the summer holidays

Stoke-on-Trent City Council,  Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, Staffordshire Police, Stoke-on-Trent Live and The Royal Life Saving Society have teamed up together to run swim safe sessions and provide advice in the largest campaign of its kind in the city. The campaign is also being backed by Glynn Evans, dad of 13-year-old Ryan who tragically died in June while swimming at Westport Lake. 

The campaign includes:

  • 500 free places on water safety training classes at Fenton Manor Sports Complex for children aged 8-14.
  • Free classes at the centre for children of all swimming levels aged 6-14. These classes follow Amateur Swimming Association learn to swim guidance.
  • Certificates and water safety materials for all children who attend classes, along with a free swimming voucher for Fenton Manor Sports Complex or Dimensions Leisure Centre.
  • Signposting to help encourage young swimmers to become stronger swimmers through distance badges and swimming assessments.

Council leader Ann James said: “We want all children and young people to swim safer and enjoy the summer holidays safely. Ryan’s incredibly sad death has very tragically brought the issue of water safety, especially in open stretches of water, sharply into focus.

“Some sense can be made out of the numbness and loss that the whole city is feeling if it can act as an encouragement for children and families to come together and learn about water safety.

“We are determined to do all we can to help keep children safe. The activities that will take place at our leisure centres are the biggest water safety campaign of its kind that we have run. I’d like to see all the places filled, and for children to learn water safety skills that will last them a lifetime. If places exceed demand, we’re committed to adding more sessions too.”

The free swimming sessions at Fenton Manor Sports Complex will teach children how to be safe in and around water this summer. Children aged 8-14 can book onto one or up to six weeks of sessions and must be able to swim 25m in the pool. The sessions will take place across the school holidays on Sundays at 4pm-4.30pm or 4.30pm-5pm, and on Tuesdays at 4pm-4.30pm.

Free learn to swim sessions at Fenton Manor Sports Complex will also be available for children aged six to 14, between August 13 and 17. These classes are for all levels of ability including non-swimmers, and follow the Amateur Swimming Association’s learn to swim programme.* Children ideally need to attend a session on each of the five days. Sessions take place at 1.15pm, 1.45pm, 2.15pm and 2.45pm on these dates.

Glynn Luznyj, director of prevent and protect at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are very grateful to have this opportunity to work with our partners to share these important water safety messages. We are also very thankful that Glynn Evans is backing the campaign after such a tragedy. Hopefully his story and Ryan’s memory will help teach others of the dangers of swimming in open water.

“We hope the swimming and water safety sessions that are being offered by the city council will go a long way to educate children and young people and prevent any other tragedies happening in open water in the future.

“With the current hot weather it is only natural that people will be tempted to go swimming but please only swim in any water that is designated as safe and supervised.”

Chief Inspector John Owen, who led Staffordshire Police’s response to the Westport Lake incident in June, said: “I have personally seen the pain that poor water safety can cause and so I encourage everyone to take advantage of these lessons. As we enjoy a rare, hot summer let’s do all we can to make sure our children can play outside safely and prevent anything terrible happening to another family.”

Lee Heard, head of volunteering for the Royal Life Saving Society UK, said that every drowning is an unimaginable tragedy. He said: “We want people to enjoy water, but safely and sensibly – using their common sense, listening to advice and swimming where there is supervision. The best start to be safe around water is learning to swim and developing water safety skills. We applaud the agencies in Stoke-on-Trent for offering this initiative and thank them for all that they are doing to increase understanding of staying safe.”

Sentinel editor Martin Tideswell said: “Our city came together spontaneously in the wake of Ryan’s disappearance and, subsequently, in support of his incredible family. This campaign represents a positive step to try to raise awareness of the dangers of open water and to help to keep children and young people safe as the schools break up for summer. We are enormously grateful to Glynn Evans and his family for endorsing the Swim Safer campaign. Their courage and fortitude at this time remains an example to us all.”

Former Staffordshire firefighter and now international triathlete Jacqui Allen, who is also supporting the campaign, said: “Although I now live in Australia I have returned to the city for the summer and it has been so sad watching this tragedy unfold, although heart-warming to see the Stoke-on-Trent community pull together as a result.

“As a passionate swimmer I welcome this campaign offering free swimming lessons and raising awareness about water safety. If it means that just one parent doesn’t have to go through what Ryan’s dad has then it’s a worthwhile initiative.”

Certificates of achievements will be available for all children who take part. Bookings for all sessions can be made by calling 01782 233222 or emailing fenton.manor@stoke.gov.uk.

For all media enquiries please contact  the Communications Department at Stoke-on-Trent City Council on 01782 232671.