HUNDREDS of schoolchildren are being taught how to keep themselves safe around water this Drowning Prevention Week.

Durham County Council is running sessions for around 200 secondary and primary school children at which they will be given advice on what to do in an emergency.

The sessions are being delivered by the council and representatives of County Durham and Darlington Fire and Rescue Service and the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

Fiona Gosling, of Crook, whose son Cameron died aged 14 from cold water shock is also taking part as part of the Safe Durham Partnership’s Dying to be Cool campaign.

They being held at the council’s Seaham Harbour Activity Centre and have been organised to coincide with the Royal Life Saving Society’s (RLSS) annual Drowning Prevention Week, which runs from 15 to 25 June.

Figures from the RLSS show that more than 400 people drown in the UK every year and that thousands more suffer near-drowning experiences.

Drowning is also said to be the third highest cause of death in children in the UK with more than 60 every summer.

Around 85 per cent of accidental drownings occur at open water sites, and many of these occur due to lack of knowledge and understanding of the hazards associated.

The sessions will see young people shown videos on the dangers and risk posed by coastal environments, before being taken around Seaham Marina and a local beach to show them the hazards.

Land and water based rescues will be recreated with the schoolchildren, and they will be shown the equipment used by the coastguard and fire and rescue service when called out.

Children from six schools are attending: Ropery Walk Primary, St Cuthbert’s Primary, Seaham Trinity Primary, Hope Wood Academy, Seaham High and The Academy at Shotton Hall.

Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, the council’s Cabinet member for community safety, said: “We know the temptation to jump into water on a hot summer day to cool off can be really tempting.

“As with any coastal location, we have for a number of years had incidents of young people jumping off the piers at Seaham, putting themselves in real danger.

“Those we have spoken to said they did not know the risks which include currents, submerged rocks and metal work, and cold water shock.

“We decided to run these sessions to make schoolchildren more aware of the dangers, teach them how they can stay safe and also what to do in an emergency.”

A fire and rescue service spokesperson said: “We are delighted to be supporting Royal Life Saving Society’s Drowning Prevention Week.

“It is extremely important to us to work with our partners in the RLSS, RNLI and our local councils to ensure our safety messages reach as many people as possible.

“We will continue to run water safety events throughout the year offering advice to our communities on how to stay safe near water.”

Mrs Gosling, whose son died in July 2015, having jumped into the River Wear, near Bishop Auckland, said: “Cameron didn’t know about cold water shock when he jumped in a river and he paid for that with his life.

“Through Dying to be Cool, we have made so many young people aware of cold water shock and I hope the schoolchildren coming to these sessions will remember what happened to Cameron and all the other really important safety advice they are given.”