Newcastle North MP and Chair of the Petitions Committee in Parliament, Catherine McKinnell, has led a debate in Parliament calling for action to reduce the number of accidental deaths in water by educating children on its dangers.

The debate followed a petition that received over 100,000 signatures started by Beckie Ramsey, who lost her 13-year-old son Dylan to a water accident ten years ago this month.

Prior to the debate, Catherine met with Beckie and other families who have lost loved ones, many of whom are now campaigning to get more water safety education into schools.

Between 2009-2020, there were 7,000 water-related fatalities in the UK, 3,938 of which are classified as accidental or natural causes. Last year 30 people under the age of 20 died from accidents in the water.

Catherine pressed Ministers to improve the provision of water safety education in the curriculum, highlighting that “when it comes to safety knowledge is power, and education saves lives, but what we are missing is any universal availability of this life-saving knowledge.”

To show what a difference this knowledge can make, she highlighted the case of Evan Chrisp from Newcastle who survived being swept into the North Sea just by remembering the ‘float to live’ technique he’d seen on 1-minute-long advert.

She concluded by saying: “I urge the Government to support the petitioners in their campaign to get water safety into schools and deliver it properly. We did it for road and fire safety, with life saving results, now let’s do it for water.”

During the debate, Catherine also shared her experience of speaking to children in Newcastle about water safety, outlining “so many times, I’ve asked primary school children what one thing they would like me to ask the Prime Minister to change – expecting to hear answers like more play parks, or free ice-creams on hot days – but water safety comes up again and again. Perhaps because they’ve grown up close to the River Tyne, children are anxious to learn how to be safe in and around the water.”

Following the debate, Catherine commented:

“Far too many families have lost loved ones to water accidents that with the right knowledge are highly preventable.

The Minister’s response was incredibly disappointing. We know this is already on the curriculum, the problem is that it’s just not happening in every school. We know schools can use the PE and Sport Premium for water safety, but this isn’t a sport, it’s a lifesaving skill.

The Government needs to fund schools to deliver this and make sure it’s happening. It’s not expensive and it’s not complicated – we know something as simple as a 20-minute classroom-based lesson can make a huge difference. We owe it to our children, and the families who have lost loved ones in the water to make that happen.”


The Petition and the Government’s written response is available here: