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Cold Water Shock: Mandatory Teaching

Volume 643: debated on Monday 25 June 2018

6. Whether he plans to include mandatory teaching on cold water shock as part of compulsory swimming and water lessons. (906005)

14. Whether he plans to include mandatory teaching on cold water shock as part of compulsory swimming and water lessons. (906015)

In the new national curriculum, which we introduced in 2014, maintained primary schools are required to teach swimming and water safety. Pupils are required to be taught how to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres, covering a range of strokes. It also requires pupils to be taught to perform self-rescue in different water-based situations.

No doubt the Minister agrees with the Prime Minister, who told the House last week, when I raised with her the case of Michael Scaife, who tragically drowned in Slough, that she recognises there is more to do on water safety education. The curriculum swimming and water safety recommendations were made nearly a year ago. On this, the last day of the Royal Life Saving Society’s annual Drowning Prevention Week, will the Minister agree to prioritise the implementation of those recommendations?

We were all very sorry to hear about the tragic death of Michael Scaife, who drowned while trying to save a friend. The Government take swimming and water safety very seriously, which is why we improved the national curriculum and why we support the National Water Safety Forum’s national drowning prevention strategy. The group the hon. Gentleman refers to published its report in July 2016. We then established an implementation group and the Government are currently reviewing the recommendations that came out of that report.

The children’s Minister—the Under-Secretary of State for Education, the hon. Member for Stratford-on-Avon (Nadhim Zahawi)—was the founder and the first chair of the all-party group on water safety and drowning prevention. Like me, he had constituents who tragically lost their lives, which was why the group was set up. Ross Irwin in my constituency drowned in Christmas 2016 and two schoolgirls drowned a couple of years previously in the same river, the River Wear. So I know this is an issue very close to the Minister’s heart and a number of colleagues from across the House have had constituents dying in such circumstances. Given that almost a third of all pupils leaving primary school are unable to swim and do not have basic water safety skills, will the Minister make it his personal ambition to ensure that every child leaves school knowing the dangers of open water and cold water shock, as well as knowing how to swim?

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for the work that she has been doing over several years to ensure that children are better informed about the dangers of water and how to be safe in and around it. I thank her for her campaigns and that of the father of Ross Irwin, to whom I also pay tribute. Thanks to the Royal Life Saving Society and Sunderland City Council, there are now improved water safety measures in place at the Fatfield riverside on the River Wear. We take these issues very seriously, which is why we improved the curriculum and why this Government asked an independent group of experts from across the swimming sector to submit an independent report, setting out how we can improve swimming and the swimming curriculum in our schools.