Stay afloat

An educational resource for secondary schools suitable for Key Stages 3 and 4 (Years 8, 9, 10 and 11).

Every year, 300-400 people lose their lives by accidental drowning. It’s the third most common cause of death amongst children and young people.

As Hampshire has about 230 miles of coastline, as well as many rivers, canals and lakes, it’s essential to educate children about water safety.

We’ve joined forces with the RNLI and the University of Portsmouth to get key water safety messages out to all our secondary schools.

Drowning child needing help

Leading the session

This is suitable for an assembly or personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) lesson, ideally during the spring term.

1. Introduce the issue

  • Every year in the UK, young people lose their lives through accidental drowning
  • Two of the most common causes are cold water shock and rip currents
  • The video you are going to see will explain the simple actions children should take if they accidentally enter very cold water, or get caught in a rip current

The video includes hard-hitting footage of drowning, so please consider any pupils that may be adversely affected by this.

2. Play the video

You can pause the film at the white screen between the first section on cold water shock and the second section on rip currents if required.

The film plays on YouTube. If you have any problems playing it in your school, please contact [email protected].

Learning outcomes

  • Know what cold water shock is, and how your body instinctively reacts
  • Understand how to survive in cold water
  • Know what rip currents are and how to avoid them
  • Understand what to do if you are caught in a rip current

Download the water safety poster

3. Conclude the session

Conclude with a summary of the two main causes of accidental drowning, and the simple actions children should take:

  • Cold water shock - relax and FLOAT for a minute. After the shock has passed, muscles will work, and controlled swimming can occur.
  • Rip currents - SWIM SIDEWAYS, parallel to the beach for a few moments, and you will reach a point where the current does not exist. At that point you can turn to swim to the beach.
  • Teachers may also choose to reiterate that when the tide ‘comes in’ (high tide) the whole beach can be covered by water. Make sure you know where the water will come to at high tide so you don’t get trapped. If you, or anyone else, is in trouble CALL 999 (OR 112) AND ASK FOR THE COASTGUARD.

Further activities

Cold water shock

Rip currents

Our partners

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has a large range of interactive and detailed resources to teach children at all phases from KS1 upwards about the dangers of water, and how to manage their own safety. These resources can be found at The Royal National Lifeboat Institution - youth education.

FREE follow up booklets (‘Get Soaked!’) are available from the RNLI so that each pupil can take one home to reinforce their learning and share water safety advice with their families and friends. To obtain booklets for your pupils, please email [email protected], remembering to state the name and address of your school, contact name / phone number and the number of booklets required.

The RNLI can also arrange for an RNLI volunteer to visit your school free of charge to provide a presentation based upon the educational materials. Details can be found at: The Royal National Lifeboat Institution - arrange a presentation.

The University of Portsmouth can provide teachers with the scientific information that was used to develop this resource. Contact [email protected] for further information.

Royal National Lifeboat Rescue
  • Royal National Lifeboat Association logo
  • University of Portsmouth logo