How many lives must be lost before learning to swim is made a priority?

How many lives must be lost before learning to swim is made a priority? Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Wir

How many lives must be lost before learning to swim is made a priority? Picture: Fiona Hanson/PA Wire - Credit: PA

As someone whose own swimming technique sends out the same signal as a person in distress at sea, I fully support this paper's summer-long campaign to encourage more people across the region to learn how to swim.

Living in the area that we do, where the sea and waterways are a feature of everyday life, it should be considered a vital part of every child's education.

I was fortunate enough to receive free swimming lessons through school while growing up in a landlocked region of Scotland in the 1980s and '90s.

MORE: 'Swimming is the most important thing you learn at school' - Fight to keep swimming a priority for schoolsHowever, as an nine-year-old wearing hand-me-down trunks which appeared like Bermuda shorts on my skinny frame, I perhaps didn't pay as close attention as I perhaps should; hence my front crawl now mimicking a scene from Jaws.

In the Borders, every main town has a pool which is managed by a sports trust subsidised by the local council. And when an expert, commissioned by the local authority, recommended closing some to fund the building of a new state-of-the-art pool in my hometown there was rightly uproar. There were even questions raised as to why the free swimming lessons stopped at primary school and could not be extended to include secondary schools, where only the elite received specialist coaching.

While I won't be winning any gold medals at the Olympics, I know enough to stay afloat and enjoy dive-bombing into the sea.

MORE: Summer of Swimming: Instructors and clubs donate free lessons for Norfolk familiesIt is only in the last year or so I have learned about the dangers of rip tides – and how to avoid them – through a safety campaign promoted by the RNLI. Unfortunately it followed the death of one man in Sea Palling.

How many other lives must be lost before this subject is made a priority in our education system?

For many school children in Norfolk, it's easier to jump in the sea than access their local pool and, without the necessary know-how, that is a tragedy waiting to happen.

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Before I moved here, I read of complaints of the facilities on offer at Splash in Sheringham. The district council has revealed it is investigating ways of funding the project. But it needs support and resources from all levels of government, as well as the backing of the community, to make it happen.

With many politicians currently seeking re-election, now is the time to be asking them what they are doing to help keep our children safe.