Wales’ comprehensive schools to undertake new community challenge looking at water safety to gain Baccalaureate qualification
With around 400 accidental drownings happening each year in the UK, with almost 40 of those being in Wales, safety in and around water has become a priority for emergency services, charities, industry and rescue organisations to ensure that drowning is reduced across the coastal, inland, rivers and open waters of Wales.
This priority has been further advanced through the launch of a new community challenge as part of the Welsh Baccalaureate. Comprehensive schools will be taking on this challenge from the new academic year starting in September.
The agencies involved with delivering and supporting this Baccalaureate challenge on behalf of the WJEC include the Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS), the three Welsh Fire and Rescue Services, the Mineral Products Association (MPA), RNLI and Welsh Water.
Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams AM, joined the lead agencies responsible for the launch of this new challenge at CEMEX’s Wenvoe Quarry near Cardiff. She said, “Safety in and around water has become a priority for charities, emergency services and rescue organisations to ensure that tragic deaths from drowning are minimised across the coastal, inland and open waters of Wales. It’s so important that the education system also plays its part in that. I look forward to meeting students today from Queen Elizabeth Secondary School in Carmarthen to hear their views on these resources.”
Caroline Morgan from the WJEC commented, “Through this new community challenge, Welsh Baccalaureate learners will gain practical skills in water safety which they will be able to share with family, friends and peers. We are delighted to be working with these organisations on this exciting new project.”
As part of the launch, which was hosted by Cemex UK at its Wenvoe quarry, South Wales Fire and Rescue Service (SWFRS) provided guests with a demonstration on the different water rescue techniques that specialist crews would use to rescue individuals in trouble in the water.
Area Manager Alison Kibblewhite from South Wales Fire and Rescue Service, as well as the national chair on water safety for the Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA), added, “Fire and Rescue Services across the UK are all working towards keeping our communities safe when it comes to our waters, whether that’s coastal, rivers, inland or open and this new community challenge for the Welsh Baccalaureate shows that Wales’ commitment to reducing drowning is one of our key priorities.
“The challenge also gives us as Welsh Fire and Rescue Services the opportunity to collaborate with rescue organisations and charities who specialise in water safety to ensure that we provide consistent messaging to our communities.”
The water community challenge incorporates both open and tidal waters, as well as reservoirs, lakes and canals. Pupils will be expected to commit up to 10 hours to the challenge, in which they will be required to plan and undertake activities that will educate not only their peers, but their communities and visitors on the dangers surrounding water, as well as how to enjoy it safely.
Andrea Roberts, Community Drowning Prevention Coordinator for the RLSS UK commented, “Every year thousands of individuals experience a situation where they are at risk of drowning, but are fortunate enough to self-rescue or are rescued by others.
“The partnerships has been working hard to deliver water safety education to the community and by securing a water safety element as part of the Welsh Baccalaureate Community Challenge, it will give young people essential knowledge that could mean the difference between life and death.”
The Mineral Products Association (MPA) initiated this challenge, as the quarries around Wales continue to see people putting their lives at risk by swimming in waters with depths of over 30m in places.
For more information about the Welsh Baccalaureate Water Community Challenge, please visit www.rlss.org.uk and search for the Challenge under Awards and Activities.