Learning to swim is just the beginning step to keeping children safe near water. The RLSS Rookie Lifeguard Programme is the essential next step.
Britain is surrounded by thousands of miles of coastline and many inland areas have canals, rivers, lakes and other waterways. What is still surprising is that even with swimming skills being taught in every town, drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death among youngsters under the age of 16, with at least 60 children losing their lives every year.
Young children should never be left unattended near water and many parents are vigilant about paddling pool safety in their own back garden. But what about your older child who can safely cycle to school or walk to a friend’s home nearby? How safe would they be if they found themselves near water?
Currently although the national curriculum states that by the end of primary school every pupil should be able to swim 25 metres and possess water safety knowledge, research shows that as many as one in five leave school without these skills. This means that hundreds of thousands of children are unable to protect themselves if they get into difficulty in water.
The Rookie Lifeguard Qualification offers lifeguarding and lifesaving for children aged 8 – 12 years old through school or swimming classes. It is the Junior award scheme of the Royal Life Saving Society in the UK (RLSS).
The course, which has been designed by water safety specialists at RLSS UK, is designed to ensure that every child in the country has essential water skills to keep themselves safe and knowledge of what to do in an emergency. The programme features swimming and lifesaving skills supported by water safety education, allowing participants to enjoy swimming as an activity and, vitally, to protect their lives should an accident occur in or out of the water.
The Rookie programme is divided into 3 stages – Bronze, Silver and Gold. At each stage there are 3 badges and there are also lots of special badges your child can work towards. Your child may not always need to start at the beginning if they have already received some training and most importantly they can progress at their own speed.
As a Rookie your child will learn special lifesaving skills to help save them and know what to do if others get into difficulty in the water. They will also learn what to do if someone stops breathing. The awards contain survival, rescue and sport skills as well as life support and water safety elements.
It is hoped that Rookie Lifeguard will help produce a new generation of children who can not only swim competently but also have a strong awareness of water safety and rescue principles. The awards have been mapped against the Lifesaving model for Long Term Lifesaving Development programme to ensure the appropriate activity is matched to the age of the participant. Crucially, fledgling swimmers are given the opportunity to progress at their own speed, not that of their peers. The fluid nature of the course allows children to spend as much time as they need to become confident within the water. This will mean that individuals can all develop at different speeds – and cut down on children who are left with feelings of inadequacy or even worse, a fear of water as a result of failing to progress at the same rate as their classmates.