Cork County Council first thought about an Education Project around safety & primary school children in 2007. It is great to see it has now become a reality. Having facilitated Water PAWS for a number of years in Fermoy Leisure Centre we were well aware of the benefits of the programme.
We looked closer and realised there was a syllabus called Land PAWS (Explain PAWS here). We felt we could work alongside this programme & use it as a basis for a Cork County Council Award or Badge in support of safety education in the schools. Taking a proactive approach to instilling a common sense & think first attitude among our young people.
Some schools don’t have the opportunity to attend swimming lessons in a local swimming pool so these are the schools that we have to really target.
However, in order to get the project off the ground Cork County Council have used 8 pools as a hub to start with and build up an information base to see where the gaps are and to target these. Classroom education is vital in these (gap) schools.
2 years ago we conducted a survey on the beaches of Cork County and the result showed that approx 70% of beach users didn’t know what the flag system on the beach was all about. They didn’t realise that the system was there for their protection & to help them to make informed & safer choices. Education is the key. We put banners explaining the system at each Beachguard Station around the County. The beachguards had education materials on water safety for distribution to the children using the beaches during the summer. We looked at our communication methods with the public on a daily basis and introduced more regular training around the outcomes.
Leading on from this we designed and launched a Cork County Council Beachlifeguard Service Facebook Page last season. It had all the vital pieces of information to assist the public to make a safer choice as to which beach to go to depending on the conditions on the day. Some were more suitable for surfing and some more family friendly and this information was gently leading the various groups of beach users to go to where was safer for them.
Info… Weather Conditions, Sea Conditions, Visability, Water Temp., Flag Flying today, Suitable activities & any other relevant information regarding to local hazards on each of the 11 beaches.
It proved to work very well and the numbers viewing it on a daily basis increased as the summer progressed. The feedback was that it was a valuable safety & education tool provided by Cork County Council.
So back to the current project… The flag. We thought about how kids learn best and decided it is through fun & experiential learning. With the kind permission of Irish Water Safety we used their safety messages to put together a pack for each school to go with the Flag Award. The pack consists of board games, card games and a book written by our Water Safety Development Officer (Ms. Caroline Casey) for the younger classes. The younger children love reading stories and through the story telling session the children are learning a vital safety message in each chapter. The response so far to the flag has been very positive.
To achieve Flag Status the schools complete the Cork County Council Programme which is made up of the Irish Water Safety Land PAWS syllabus, Interactive Presentation by the Water Safety Officer, playing some games, put up a Water Safety Notice Board in the school, make up some posters for the Water Safety Wall in the local library and to promote water safety in the school on an ongoing basis.
Currently 10 schools have completed the programme and have their flag status with 16 more following closely on their heels. Cork County Council would encourage everyone to spread the word about this award and to make contact with the Water Safety Development Officer to register your school.
This is a live project which is children lead and it will grow and change as is required on a child friendly & experiential learning basis. At the end of each session the children are asked for their opinion of the content, materials & presentation. They are usually very forthcoming with their views! They have put forward some very valuable suggestions to include in the programme so far which is great as after all it is their project.