Monday 5 December 2016

Irish Water Safety Expert: 'Water safety must be taught in primary schools'

Clarissa Waldron

Published 17/06/2015 | 08:27

Summer swimming at the Forty Foot
Summer swimming at the Forty Foot

With the summer holidays almost here, primary school teachers are being urged to cover water safety with their young students.

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Not enough teachers are focusing on the dangers of water, according to Irish Wat-er Safety (IWS), which has unveiled educational material on its website to encourage awareness.

On average, 11 people drown every year in Ireland, with 62pc losing their lives in inland waterways and the rest at sea.

IWS organises training for teachers to ensure they are equipped to provide the necessary water safety information to pupils.

"It's really vital that teachers take an interest in it, it's a constant battle," said IWS chief executive officer John Leech.

"There's only two weeks left. We want them to spend half-an-hour to 45 minutes between now and the end of the year talking the children through the online modules."

He was speaking a week after 15-year-old Caolan Seoige Webster died in a swimming accident in Athlone.

The teenager got into difficulty while swimming with friends in the Shannon and was recovered from the water by members of Athlone Sub Aqua Club and the RNLI Coosan Point Unit.

Efforts were made to resuscitate him on the river bank, but he died later in hospital.

The call to teachers comes during National Water Safety Awareness Week, which co- incides with a national radio and TV campaign aimed at highlighting efforts to stay safe in the water and the dangers.

Mr Leech said other sports get greater priority in schools than swimming.

"Not enough teachers seem to want to do it - they don't see the importance of water safety and yet every decade we lose a classroom of children," he said.

"GAA seems to be more important than water safety in our primary schools."

As part of the campaign, IWS has also launched a Safety Zone initiative aimed at the governing bodies of aquatic sports.

"From the research that we've done, most of the people who drown are people who are not well-qualified in the discipline that they're involved in, whether that's angling or canoeing," said Mr Leech.

"Most of the clubs are fairly good at water safety, they're improving constantly, and that's why we are seeing a slow decline in drownings, but it's still not fast enough."

Herald

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