Children from across Devon have been swapping the classroom for the beach in a project that teaches them safe sea swimming and raises their awareness of marine conservation.

Pupils from primary and secondary schools are taking part in the Sideshore Sea Safety project, a collaboration between Sideshore CIC, Sea Swim Devon CIC, Withycombe Raleigh Primary School and Exeter University.

The aim is to connect children with ‘blue spaces’ and introduce them to sea swimming, educate them about ocean conservation and give them knowledge and skills that could save their lives should they accidentally fall into cold water.

(Image: Sideshore Sea Safety Project)

The project began on June 10 and will finish on June 21, with three groups of pupils taking part on each day. Each group has a sea swimming session with guidance on water safety, takes part in an interactive environmental education session, and produces ocean-themed artwork using recycled plastic. The artwork will be displayed on the stage at Exmouth Festival’s Earth Day, July 21.

(Image: Sideshore Sea Safety Project)

The initiative began in 2022 with a single school and has grown rapidly due to popular demand. This year almost 900 children from 21 schools will have taken part.

The East Devon schools include Tipton St John, St Martins, Clyst Hydon, Clyst St Mary, Countess Wear, Duchy, Marpool, Exeter Road, Exmouth Community College, Withycombe, Beacon, Bassetts Farm, St Joseph’s, St Peter’s Budleigh, Brixington, Woodbury Salterton, Lympstone, Drakes, Otterton and St Peter’s Lympstone. 

Comments from children at Drake’s School included: “The best school trip we have ever been on.”(from a non- swimmer).

“I loved it.”

“The environment session from the university was great - the mussel expert was brilliant.”

A teacher from Otterton school said: “Brilliant fun, well organised, the activities were perfectly suited to the children and the staff were really supportive of our nervous swimmers.”

Teachers from Exeter Road said: “This was a fantastic day … 5 star!”

“All children had fun whilst learning important sea safety information that could save their life.” 

In return for their places on the project, all the schools have made an environmental pledge to either complete a beach clean, make a sustainable change in their schools or become a Surfers Against Sewage Plastic Free School.

The Sea Safety Project organisers said: “We hope these children will go away feeling inspired and become the change makers of tomorrow!”