New Schools Framework Launched to Transform Water Safety

20 June 2024
L-R - Claire Hubler, Roddie MacNeil, Joanne King, Cameron Taylor, Alan Thomson, Gordon Hunter, Lorna Smith, Chris Spence, Alan Crawford at Loch Lomond to mark Drowning Prevention Week

New initiative launched at Loch Lomond

children and instruction in open water at Loch Lomond learning safety skills during Drowning Prevention Week

Children enjoying vital water safety lesson at Loch Lomond

“Our vision is that ‘everyone can swim’, and we believe that teaching primary school age children water safety skills is vital to this.

Euan Lowe
CEO Scottish Swimming

A bold new framework that aims to revolutionise water safety in schools has been launched.

The National Primary School Swimming Framework – a partnership between Scottish Water and Scottish Swimming - vision is to ensure that primary school children (ideally at Primary 4/Primary 5 level) across Scotland will get to learn basic water safety and drowning prevention skills to help them be safer and more confident in, on and around water.

Developed by Scottish Swimming and supported by Scottish Water, the Framework will introduce standardised outcomes alongside innovative, flexible delivery models tailored to local needs to enhance the current School Swimming provision.

Launched during a Drowning Prevention Week event at Loch Lomond yesterday (19 June) the framework hopes to ensure all children have the chance to learn vital water safety skills, which may be their only opportunity for such education.

Over 9200 pupils have already taken part in two phases of pilots which were carried out across nine local authorities across Scotland, the Framework has now been made accessible for all local authorities and pools.

Statistics show that Scotland’s record of drownings is worryingly high, with 47 accidental drownings reported by the National Water Safety Forum in 2023, almost 10 fatal drownings per one million people, nearly triple the rate of the rest of the UK.

Euan Lowe, CEO at Scottish Swimming, added: "Our vision is that ‘everyone can swim’, and we believe that teaching primary school age children water safety skills is vital to this.

“The framework's flexible approach allows schools to adopt models best suited to their circumstances while delivering consistent skills and messaging about water safety. Whether through a universal approach or targeted programmes for non-swimmers, we maintain core water safety principles. 

“This collaborative effort with Scottish Water and the Scottish Government, sportscotland, and educational bodies underscores our commitment to making swimming accessible and safe for all children."

Peter Farrer, Scottish Water’s Chief Operating Officer, said: “Learning how to be safer in, on, and around water is such an important life skill – everyone should be able to enjoy Scotland’s miles of rivers, lochs, reservoirs and shorelines, and do so safely.

“Scotland's drowning rates highlight the urgent need for comprehensive water safety education. 

“We are proud to support the National Primary School Swimming Framework, which aims to help ensure children across Scotland leave primary school with the essential knowledge and skills to stay safe around water."

Boy practicing float technique in pool

Learning floating technique will help save lives

young children at poolside during a Learn to Swim lesson

80,000 children are learning water safety skills during Drowning Prevention Week

A recent survey of primary school headteachers in Scotland revealed that nine in 10 that currently deliver school swimming value it as part of their pupils’ education. With nearly three-quarters (72%) of schools unaware of the Water Safety Scotland Progression Pathway classroom resources for school teachers, this new framework is set out to ensure all children receive essential water safety skills. 

The framework is designed to adapt to various local authority environments, ensuring inclusivity and targeting children who may not have previous swimming experience. Integrating the Water Safety Code throughout aligns with Water Safety Scotland's drowning prevention initiatives.

Supported by the Scottish Government and sportscotland, and with the involvement of Education Scotland and Water Safety Scotland, pilot programmes explored different delivery models, leading to the comprehensive framework now available for schools across the nation. 

Pilot programmes were carried out in the following local authorities:

  • Dundee: 30 pupils
  • East Lothian: 1238 pupils
  • North Lanarkshire: 134 pupils
  • Scottish Borders: 86 pupils
  • West Dunbartonshire: 1100 pupils
  • Aberdeen: 1490 pupils
  • Clackmannanshire: 540 pupils
  • East Renfrewshire: 230 pupils

The framework is linked to Scottish Swimming’s comprehensive education qualifications and CPD courses to aid the development and quality of delivery.

Drowning Prevention Week (15-22 June 2024), organised by the Royal Life Saving Society (RLSS), stands as one of the largest water safety campaigns in the UK and Ireland, specifically targeting the summer season. Its primary goal is to equip individuals with the necessary skills and knowledge to make informed decisions regarding water safety, particularly during the summer months.

For more information on The National Primary School Swimming Framework, visit: Scottish Swimming  or contact