More than 250 youngsters from schools across the North East are learning valuable water safety lessons that could help save lives.

The RNLI (Royal National Lifeboat Institution) is at Seaburn beach over the next few weeks running 28 'Hit the Surf' sessions for 8 - to 11 year old primary school pupils.

The programme offers a unique opportunity for school children and youth groups to get practical lessons in lifesaving and beach safety at one of the North East's most beautiful beaches.
RNLI Lifeguard supervisor, Nick Campbell said: "Each session lasts two and a half hours and includes a lesson on staying safe at the beach as well as explaining the role the RNLI and our lifeguards play.

"We talk about things like the importance of always swimming between the red and yellow flags, and what to do if you get into trouble.

"This is followed with a lifesaving lesson and the chance to learn surf based skills which help build the children's confidence in the sea. Our charity's lifeguards also teach them what hazards they need to watch out for at the beach. The idea is that they then take that advice home and share it with family and friends."

Sunderland schools taking part in the sessions are: South Hylton Primary School, Redby Academy, Grangetown Primary School, St Leonard's Primary School, Willowfields Community Primary School, New Silksworth Academy, Valley Road Primary School, Hudson Road Primary School, St John Bosco RC Primary, Hetton Lyons, Lambton Primary School, English Martyrs RC Primary, Wessington Primary School, Broadway Junior School, Argyle House School, Barnwell Academy, Hill View Junior School, Hylton Castle Primary School, Newbottle Academy, St Benet's Primary School and Farringdon Academy.

Headteacher at St Benet's Primary, Ann Blakey, said: "I am delighted that our pupils and others across the city are taking part in the RNLI 'Hit the Surf' sessions. Many of our children live near the sea so sessions like these are invaluable in teaching them very important skills for life."

The Hit the Surf sessions are part of Sunderland's annual water safety programme which has seen the RNLI joining forces with the City Council and the RLSS (Royal Lifesaving Society) to promote water safety.

This has included water safety lessons in schools to more than 150,000 pupils since 1994. The City Council is also holding a competition for schools to develop a hard-hitting radio advert to educate people about the risks around water which will be used in a radio advertising campaign ahead of the school holidays. And it is re-launching a short film warning young people about the risks of open water, featuring the friends of tragic Washington school girls Chloe Fowler and Tonibeth Purvis, who died in 2013 after an innocent afternoon beside the River Wear saw them get into difficulty in the water.

Sunderland City Council Portfolio Holder for City Services, Councillor Michael Mordey said: "We're delighted so many children are getting the opportunity to take part in the 'Hit The Surf' training.

"Sessions like these are a really good way of helping children to get a better understanding of how to stay safe around water.

"We're very lucky to have such a fantastic seafront and we want people to enjoy everything it has to offer but at the same time to be aware of the dangers too which is why we're working with the RNLI and the RLSS to raise awareness."