Children are being taught how to stay safe in the sea in South Tyneside.
The ASA, England’s national governing body for swimming, has joined forces with the RNLI to deliver the Swim Safe open water safety programme.
It gives youngsters the opportunity to learn how to stay safe in open water - where conditions are often much more dangerous than the swimming pools they are used to.
And experts say it could help save lives and keep children out of danger.
Jon Glenn, head of Learn to Swim at the ASA, said: “Although many children learn to swim the basic 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 created 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 on holiday.
“Some of the tragedies the country saw in 2013 were a result of children not understanding 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.”
Sandhaven Beach in South Shields is one of four locations chosen from across the country to host the initiative this year, with lessons starting yesterday.
The programme is already underway in Bournemouth and Bude, and sessions are due to start at Lake Windermere on August 18.
The free sessions are open to young people who are aged seven to 14 and are able to swim a minimum of 25m.
Each session features a 10 minute talk with RNLI lifeguards followed by 30 minutes of in-water tuition with ASA qualified swimming teachers.
Coun Alan Kerr, deputy leader of South Tyneside Council, said: “Our stunning coastline attracts nearly two million people every summer and we want to make sure all those who come here not only have a wonderful time, but stay safe while swimming in the sea.
“Swim Safe is an exciting programme giving local children and those enjoying a holiday here the opportunity to improve their swimming ability as well as gain valuable knowledge and the skills needed for swimming in the sea or open waters.
“The sessions are fun and interactive, with qualified teachers and lifeguards on hand.
“We’re delighted to be chosen to host this initiative on our beautiful award winning Sandhaven Beach and look forward to seeing youngsters taking advantage of the free sessions running over the summer thanks to ASA and the RNLI.”
Pip Hare, RNLI coastal safety 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 with valuable knowledge and skills which they will hopefully share with their parents.”
The sessions are running six days a week (except on Saturdays) until Tuesday, August 16, at noon, 12.45pm, 2.15pm, 3pm, 3.45pm and 4.30pm.
Youngsters can register their interest at www.swimming.org/swimsafe or they can simply turn up on the day to register for a session.
For more information about Swim Safe in South Tyneside visit the council’s website at www.southtyneside.info/swimsafe