More than 500 Year 5 and 6 schoolchildren in the Exmouth Learning Community have been learning how to stay safe by the sea as part of the ‘Sideshore Sea Safety Project’.

The project was designed by Jane Hushon from Swim Devon and Bernie Rhodes from Withycombe Primary School to equip school children with the knowledge and skills required to prevent themselves from getting into trouble when swimming in the sea and provide them with the self-rescue skills that could save their lives.

The project began in September 2022 when it was trialled with 180 Year 5 and 6 children from Withycombe Primary School. Due to its success, it has grown in size rapidly and this year included 12 primary schools from the Exmouth Learning Community and over 500 local children.

The children started their beach sessions with a ‘meet the lifeguard’ talk from the RNLI beach lifeguards, who explained the flag system on the beach and gave helpful tips on safer sea swimming.

The children then completed a series of land-based games and sea swimming activities learning about self-rescues, hazard spotting and cold-water shock.

Water safety and self-rescue is a key part of the national curriculum, and this initiative allowed the children to learn first-hand in the open water environment.

The children fully embraced the sea swimming sessions and thoroughly enjoyed getting stuck into what the local environment has to offer.

Withycombe Raleigh teacher Bernie Rhodes said: “Their faces were full of smiles, and they were already asking to do the sessions again before they had walked back to school”.

Thank you to Sideshores Queens drive CIC’ who have committed to putting half of their parking fees into community swimming projects like ours – we are very grateful; we couldn’t have done this without you.

“Thank you to Edge Watersports for allowing us to use your changing facilities and sponsoring wetsuits for the event, and finally thank you to all the members of the public who stopped to say hello and share a wonderful day with us.”

In return for the funding all schools have made a pledge to: carry out a beach clean, become a Surfers Against Sewage plastic free school or make a sustainable environmental change in their school, such as switching to plastic free lunchboxes.