In 2017 we were asked, once again, by the RNLI to independently evaluate the Swim Safe programme. Swim Safe was launched in 2013 by the RNLI, the charity that saves lives at sea and Swim England, the national governing body for swimming in England. The Swim Safe programme offers free outdoor swimming and water safety sessions for children aged 7-14. Having conducted a full review of the programme in 2016, it was a pleasure to be invited back to see how the programme continues to go from strength to strength, enabling more and more children to learn vital water safety skills. It was also great to see how the suggestions that we made in the previous year had been adopted and how the programme was thriving as a result.
In 2017, 13k children took part across 22 sites spread over the whole of the UK. After taking part in Swim Safe, 67.7% knew that they were likely to have trouble breathing if they fell into cold water, a 26.8 percentage point increase compared to responses before taking part in Swim Safe. The programme draws a large amount of partner funding from schools, local authorities and other organisations who see the huge importance in creating this important offer in their area.
Our work concentrated on the newly formed schools programme that now sits within Swim Safe and also the importance of engaging parents with the programme and how best this could be achieved. We visited sites in Wales, London, Manchester and Plymouth and talked to many parents, teachers, Swim Safe instructors, as well as getting under the skin of the programme with the programme management team.
Following the handover of our official report, we also presented to the Programme Board, Chaired by Steve Parry, in London to discuss our recommendations.