Thousands of youngsters across East Renfrewshire are to be offered free swimming lessons as part of a new initiative.

The aim is to improve water safety and reduce the risk of drowning.

Sessions will be delivered by East Renfrewshire Culture and Leisure (ERCL) using pools at the Barrhead Foundry, Neilston Leisure Centre, Eastwood Park Leisure Centre and Eastwood High Leisure Centre.

Efforts to promote safe swimming are being backed by sports stars Duncan Scott and Toni Shaw, along with staff from Scottish Swimming, Scottish Water and East Renfrewshire CouncilParalympic medallist Toni Shaw lending their support

Experts will also visit local schools to offer advice on how to stay safe around water.

Almost 7,000 young people are expected to benefit from the programme this year.

Robert Hammond, of ERCL, told the Barrhead News: “We are supporting swimmers in developing confidence, knowledge and competence in the water throughout the year.

“Water safety features as part of our intensive swimming lessons during our six-week summer holiday programme for the first time this year and we also aim to build water safety awareness into our annual Learn to Swim programme moving forward.

“Our swimming development team are working with the Active Schools team, offering swimming sessions for primary four pupils who have signed up to the programme, as well as water safety awareness sessions in classrooms and assemblies across all primary schools.”

The Learn to Swim programme is supported by the likes of Olympic gold medallist Duncan Scott, who is a member of the Scotland team currently competing at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

Efforts to promote safe swimming are being backed by sports stars Duncan Scott and Toni Shaw, along with staff from Scottish Swimming, Scottish Water and East Renfrewshire CouncilOlympic hero Duncan Scott

By the end of the summer holiday programme, around 1,500 youngsters will have been put through an intense week of learning, with drowning prevention lessons every Friday.

The school swimming scheme will see primary four pupils attend weekly sessions.

A total of 25 schools have indicated they want to be included in the initiative when it resumes after the summer break.

This is a 12% increase compared to 2020, with one private school and one additional needs school taking part for the first time.

Mark Ratter, East Renfrewshire Council’s director of education, said: “The curriculum for excellence will be embedded in the new East Renfrewshire Swimming Programme, allowing pupils to develop water confidence and core aquatic skills in a fun environment.”

For more information, visit www.ercultureandleisure.org/free-swimming.