A Wigan swimming instructor is urging parents to equip their children with traditional armbands instead of more modern floating devices this summer, to avoid potential tragedy.
Gail Rickett, who runs swimming lessons across the North West, has tots as young as two swimming 200 metres and four-year-olds completing a mile.
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Now she’s turned her attention to saving lives and is determined to get the message out there that individual armbands, made popular in the 1970s and 1980s, are the best floatation device for youngsters not confident in the water.
“Woggle” and “noodle” floats are much more common sights in modern-day pools, but qualified lifeguard and swimming teacher Gail, who has worked in pools for her entire career, insists she’s “never had to save a child from drowning wearing armbands”.
She added: “A lot of parents are led to believe that they should not put armbands on their children if they are non-swimmers or weak swimmers when playing around a swimming pool. I strongly disagree.”
Drowning is the third highest cause of death in children in the UK, while nine million British adults can’t swim.
Gail, aka The Water Whisperer, who has made TV appearances on the back of her phenomenal success rate with pupils, said: “As a lifeguard I have pulled many children out of the water and prevented hundreds from drowning.
“Only the other week I was teaching when some grandparents who were standing on the poolside fully clothed, wrapped a woggle around a three year old and pushed her into the pool in a depth where she couldn’t stand and I had to save her.
“Many will say their children are petrified of water but they don’t want them to get used to armbands.
“By wearing these floatation aids it helps them build confidence as they can move independently. I have lost count how many times I have seen a parent giving as I call it, a flying lesson, to their child. They hold their child up so high out of the swimming pool their knees and toes skim the top as the child frantically attempts to swim doggy paddle in the air.
“I was the first ever female lifeguard working on a beach in North West England and I’ve worked in one of the largest pools in Europe, I’ve never had to save a child from drowning who wore armbands, so they certainly help.”
Nine million adults cannot swim and 60 children have been recorded as drowning in the UK during the summer months according to 2017 stats from the World Health Organisation and Teaching Time.
Anyone interested in more advice from Gail can contact her on 07449135450 or visit her website at thewaterwhisperer.co.uk