Lord Storey: If water safety knowledge was taught in schools many lives could be saved each year

Posted On: 
6th March 2019

Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Education & former Primary School headteacher, Lord Storey, writes ahead of his Lords debate on ‘Improving the swimming and life-saving skills of children provided through schools’.


Last year I was asked to be part of the Life Saving Awards Ceremony of the Royal Life Saving Society – the occasion was held at Worcester Cathedral. Before the event started, a family arrived early and in a quiet and very dignified way, lit a candle for their young son who only a few weeks beforehand had lost his life in a drowning accident.

What can be worse for parents or carers than to answer the door and be told that their son or daughter has been drowned, either as a result of getting into difficulty or by trying to help someone else who was in trouble in the water.

Imagine, if it was your child, the anguish and hurt you would feel and the questioning of why and what could have been done to prevent such a tragedy.

It is a terrifying statistic that every year in the UK 600 people lose their lives through drowning and of those 80% are male.

The other statistic worth considering is that nearly 50% of children leave primary school unable to swim. Swimming combined with basic water safety knowledge is not taught on the curriculum in every school.

Currently, 95% of adults would not be able, confident or willing enough to help someone in difficulty – but by equipping children and young people with the knowledge and skills of what to do, we could reduce the drowning figures significantly in one generation.

Saving another person’s life is one of the best things that any of us can do – and teaching lifesaving skills to our children and young people will enable them to step forward and take action if somebody is in difficulty. If water safety knowledge was taught at schools many lives could be saved each year.

At school we should make sure that nearly all the children should be able to swim at least 25 metres before they leave primary school.

The cost of providing swimming lessons, CPR and First Aid is insignificant when measured against the cost of lives lost. At a time when we are seeing young people’s lives lost through knife crime in some of our major cities and rightly trying to do all we can to prevent this happening, we mustn’t forget that young lives are needlessly being lost through drowning and there is something we can do to prevent this happening.

Lord Storey is Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Education