Extra support to help young people with SEND learn water safety

This year’s Drowning Prevention Week will see a focus on teaching water safety to pupils with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

The support is being given as part of the Youth Sport Trust-led Inclusion 2020 project which is being funded by the Department for Education and involves a consortium made up of Activity Alliance, the British Paralympic Association, Nasen (National Association of Special Educational Needs) and Swim England.

The organisations are giving their support to the Royal Life Saving Society UK’s (RLSS UK) Drowning Prevention Week which runs from 14 to 24 June, immediately prior to YST National School Sport Week 2019 (24 to 28 June).

Through Inclusion 2020, schools are working to increase opportunities for young people with SEND to enjoy Physical Education, school sport and physical activity. Children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust is supporting a national network of 50 Lead Inclusion Schools - hubs of expertise on inclusive PE and sport - to act as champions in their local areas.

Five of these schools are developing new resources and opportunities to share expertise with other schools to help overcome barriers that can prevent young people with SEND from learning to swim and know how to be safe in an around water. This includes giving teachers from mainstream schools the chance to learn from swim teachers who work in special schools.

Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: 

“We believe it’s really important for us to be supporting Drowning Prevention Week. It is essential that children get to learn about water safety – no matter what their background or ability. We will be using this important week to shine a light on how schools are making sure children have the opportunity to learn to swim 25m before they leave primary school and in particular are working to ensure that every young person with a special educational need or disability learns how to be safe in the water.”

Minister for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi, said:

“Swimming is great fun and helps children to stay fit and healthy. But swimming at school also teaches children vital skills on how to stay safe in and around water. No young person should miss out on learning vital water safety skills that will stay with them throughout their lives.

“It’s fantastic to see Inclusion 2020 schools and partners getting involved in Drowning Prevention Week to make swimming and water safety lessons as accessible as possible to all children.”

To further support schools, Swim England has recently updated all the material in their School Swimming and Water Safety Charter with SEND in mind.

School case studies

Durham Trinity School is reviewing a new assessment scheme for swimming teachers to use for SEND pupils who attend mainstream schools. The school is also providing opportunities for swimming teachers who deliver mainstream classes to work alongside and learn from a swimming teacher based in a special school.

Lorraine Kelly, Swimming Teacher at Durham Trinity School, said: “We will be delivering Drowning Prevention Week at Durham Trinity School and Sports College as we feel it is a very important area that needs to be addressed. We think it is extremely important we teach young people how to keep safe in water and we will be doing this by setting up mini scenarios in our pool to show pupils what is safe and unsafe to do. We will also be reinforcing this by showing them video footage to support their learning and understanding.”

Friars Academy in Northamptonshire is gathering insight from schools to identify barriers that reduce access to swimming for pupils with SEND. They will specifically look at the staffing ratio for pupils with SEND and the teaching support available to schools. This will include interventions that can be delivered dry side, providing fundamental skills to pupils before they get to the pool, which can lessen anxiety that pupils may face and build confidence before they enter the water.

Rhian Turnbull, PE Lead at Friars Academy said: “We are really proud to be one of the lead schools in such an important project for young people with SEND and to be given the opportunity to work in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust, Swim England and the Department for Education to maximise opportunities and remove barriers. We knew immediately that this was a project we wanted to be involved with as we believe passionately in the importance of water safety, water confidence and swimming for all young people as a key life skill. We are excited to support schools in Northamptonshire and work with them to develop inclusive, meaningful and progressive opportunities and experiences to improve the life chances of young people in our county.”

Drowning Prevention Week

RLSS UK’s Drowning Prevention Week runs from 14 to 24 June. For more information go to: https://www.rlss.org.uk/drowning-prevention-week

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