Assemblies which aim to educate schoolchildren on the dangers of jumping into rivers without acclimatising are returning following last year’s success.
Durham County Council One Point service is once again organising assemblies as part of the Safe Durham Partnership’s Dying to be Cool campaign, which seek to raise awareness among ten to sixteen-year-olds of cold water shock.
The assemblies will again feature County Durham mum Fiona Gosling, whose 14-year-old son Cameron died from cold water shock in summer 2015. He jumped into the River Wear without getting his body used to the water temperature.
They will also feature representatives from County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service, who will be showing schoolchildren the equipment used in water rescues.
Last year’s assemblies took in six schools in the Bishop Auckland area, reaching 3,360 children.
So far this year, 12 assemblies have been arranged at ten schools and colleges across County Durham.
They began at Tanfield School on Monday and will run through until 10 May at Woodham Academy.
Cllr Joy Allen, the council’s Cabinet member for safer communities, said: “Having sat through one of last year’s assemblies, I know the impact they have on children but also the adults present. You could have heard a pin drop.
“We are looking forward to getting the message about cold water shock to even more children in the coming weeks and as I’ve said before: if it keeps one child from getting into difficulty it will have been worthwhile.
“We’re extremely grateful to have Mrs Gosling and the fire service on board again and would like to thank the schools that are allowing us to come in and give these assemblies.
“There is still an opportunity for other schools to host them if they wish.”
Cameron, who lived in Crook and was a former pupil at Parkside Academy in Willington, had been playing with friends near Bishop Auckland when he jumped into the water.
Mrs Gosling said: “Life has never been the same for us as a family since Cameron died.
“By speaking about what happened my hope is that children will be aware of the risks when jumping into rivers and that they are less likely to get into difficulty.”
Keith Wanley, area manager community risk management for the fire and rescue service, said “Our hope is that these awareness raising sessions will help to save lives and encourage people to stop and think before putting themselves in danger in this way.”
Paul Diston, assistant headteacher at St Bede’s Catholic School and Sixth Form College, Lanchester, which hosted an assembly earlier today, said: “The assembly was a very powerful reminder to us all about the dangers of a seemingly innocent activity.
“Our students are privileged to hear such a strong message delivered in the personal manner in which Fiona spoke.”