Prepared to dive in

26th August 2005 at 01:00
Last year 422 people drowned in the UK. Of these 76 (considerably up on previous years) were children of school age. Only two, however - the number is about the same year to year - were in the care of their schools at the time. Asif Bharucha, 17, from Blackburn college, Lancashire, fell from a cliff-top path in Cornwall, and 11-year-old Nathan Matthews from Stokenchurch primary school, Buckinghamshire, drowned in a school event at Thame Leisure Centre.

Each is an unimaginable tragedy for a family, but the numbers of children drowned in the care of their schools - seven in four years - is small compared with the many thousands of children who go out with their schools every day of the year.

It's important, though, to keep on top of training and procedures, and Lifesavers runs a range of water qualifications, awards and courses all the way from "junior lifesaver" through emergency response courses for outdoor activity supervisors, up to full lifeguard qualification (including the bronze lifesaving award open to any swimmer from 12 upwards).

For advice on these, and their appropriateness, contact Lifesavers. Also ask them for advice on risk assessment. They're accustomed to being approached about everything including, increasingly, adventure trips abroad. But ask them in good time, says Val Sumner, life saving support officer. "At one time a teacher would ring up on Thursday and ask if we could give them training for a trip that weekend. Now, they ask before Christmas for training in the spring term for a trip in the summer. That's much better."

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