How to Stay Safe at the Beach

Although beaches are fun places they can also be dangerous, and you may have heard some stories in the news lately about people getting into difficulties when they’re in or by the sea. Our science editor Sam Gouldson, who lives on the Sussex coast, shares her tips for beach safety.

Go to a Beach with Lifeguards

lifeguard sign


Many beaches have lifeguards, who are trained to keep people safe whether they’re on the beach or in the sea. You can find out where these beaches are by searching the Good Beach Guide (for the UK), Irish Water Safety (for Ireland) or the ILSE (for Europe). Find out more about the RNLI Lifeguards in UK here.

Pay Attention to the Flags

Beach Safety

Beaches in the UK use a flag system to inform you of possible hazards. If there are red and yellow flags this means that there are lifeguards in that area and that it’s safe to swim.

A black and white chequered flag means that the area is for people using paddleboards, surfboards and kayaks, and that you should not swim there.

A red flag means that the area is dangerous and you should not go into the water for any reason. There may also be information boards and signs at the beach, and you should read these thoroughly.

Stay With Your Group

beach safety

If you stick with your family or friends you can all keep an eye on each other. Find somewhere distinctive to use as a base while you’re at the beach and agree where you’ll meet up if you get separated.

If there are younger children in your group make sure they’re with a responsible adult or older teen. Some beaches have a wristband scheme so that children can be easily identified and their group members contacted if they wander off; if the beach you’re visiting has one of these schemes, take part.

Learn About the Sea

beach safety

Different beaches have different conditions. The tide can come in much faster at one beach than at another, and you should always keep an eye on the water and which direction it’s flowing in. You can look up tide tables online so that you’re aware of when the tide is likely to turn and don’t get cut off from the shore.

Some beaches have dangerous features called rip tides, which are strong currents that can quickly sweep you out to sea without warning. Always check with the beach’s lifeguards if there are any areas that you should avoid – many beaches have a noticeboard to inform visitors about the current conditions.

Waves can also be dangerous, depending on how fast the water is moving and how steeply the beach shelves. Some beaches will have sharp rocks or other hazards that may not be clearly visible from the shore. Again, check the lifeguard’s advice before you go into the water.

If the weather is cool, consider wearing a protective suit to keep you warm in the water, as cold water shock can affect your breathing, blood pressure and heart rate.

Be Careful When Using Inflatables


Inflatable toys and beds are designed to be used in swimming pools, not on open water. But if you do use them make sure there is an adult with you and that you’re in the lifeguarded area between the red and yellow flags.

You should stay near the shore and never use inflatables when there are big waves or an windsock is flying; these are signs that the wind is too strong.

Know What to Do If You Get Into Trouble

A photo by Pierre-Olivier Bourgeois.

If you find yourself in difficulties, stay calm. If the water is shallow enough for you to stand, wade through the water instead of trying to swim in it. Raise at least one hand in the air and shout loudly and clearly for help, and don’t try to swim against the tide because you’ll just tire yourself out.

If you have a board or an inflatable hold onto it; not only will it help you stay afloat it will also make you easier for rescuers to spot.

If you see someone who is in trouble in the water, stay calm. Alert the lifeguards, or if you can’t see them call the emergency services on 999 (in the UK) or 112 (anywhere in Europe).

Stay Safe in the Sun


Although the sea can be dangerous, so too can the sun. Always use sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30, and re-apply frequently.

Keep your head and shoulders covered, wear sunglasses to protect your eyes and stay in the shade at the hottest part of the day (usually between 11am and 3pm).

For more information read “Why is too much sun bad for you and how does sunscreen work?”.


School & Career

What is The Point in Learning Biology?

Last time we looked at uses of English, both in day-to-day life and in careers. Today we will focus on Biology – the study of life and living organisms in more detail that you could ever think necessary. So how is Biology useful in our day to day lives? How can we put the skills learned in Biology to use?
Here is where to find BIOLOGY … every day and everywhere


Science, Nature and Tech

Fairtrade Bananas

You might have seen the logo – stuck to bananas, in the corner of chocolate bars or perhaps on the label of jars of coffee or boxes of tea stacked on the supermarket shelves. But have you ever wondered exactly what the table ‘Fairtrade banana’ means and who it helps? Clara Wiggins explains all.


Until recently I lived in St Lucia, a small island in the Eastern Caribbean. A beautiful piece of paradise, St Lucia is one of the many islands in that part of the world that has relied for years on a combination of income from tourism and the sales of its fruit and vegetables – specifically bananas – to gives its people a reasonable standing of living. Life on these small islands is tough, they are very vulnerable to things like hurricanes and outside events that stop tourists coming on holiday. But as long as people bought their produce, the people of St Lucia were able to get by and children were able to go to school and get a good education.




Unfortunately, things changed. A few years ago, a change in trade laws meant that the UK stopped buying so many of their bananas from St Lucia and other islands in that part of the Caribbean – known as the Windward Islands – and started buying more of them from Latin America and West Africa.

Supermarkets in this country also became increasingly competitive and wanted to offer their customers cheaper  produce to buy. As bananas have always traditionally been one of the most popular items for supermarket shoppers, these were offered at lower and lower prices – meaning the farmers who were growing them were getting paid less and all the people who relied on their income were finding it harder and harder to survive.

This is where Fairtrade stepped in. As an organisation, the Fairtrade Foundation ensures that farmers and other producers are offered a fair and stable price for their goods – and at the same time help improve the working and living conditions of the workers and their families.

After the changes to the trading laws meant fewer bananas were bought from St Lucia and the other islands, the number of banana farmers dropped from 27,000 to around 4,000 – which led to high unemployment, youth unrest and an increase in poverty. But the first consignment of Fairtrade bananas was shipped to the UK in 2000 and since then volumes have grown until today more than 90% of the farmers in the Windwards belong to a Fairtrade group. The knowledge that they will get a good price for their fruit has changed the lives of the farmers. Now they can afford things that we take for granted, like health care and decent education for their children. It also means they can use the money to invest in expanding into other areas and hopefully build back up the number of people employed in this work.


fairtrade bananas


Of course Fairtrade isn’t just about bananas from the Caribbean – you can now buy a huge range of goods including chocolate, flowers, rice, sugar, even beauty products all stamped with the Fairtrade logo from countries across the globe. And every time you do so, you know you are helping someone like the banana farmers to build a better future for themselves and their families.

But as well as buying Fairtrade goods, another way to get involved is to turn your own school into a Fairtrade school.

A Fairtrade school is one that uses Fairtrade products as far as possible, commits itself to learning about how global trade works and why Fairtrade is important and takes action for Fairtrade in the school and wider community. Already, there are nearly 500 schools with Fairtrade status, with many more going through the process to gain certification.

As well as all the obvious reasons for doing it – ie helping the world become a fairer place and helping to reduce poverty – being part of a campaign to get your own school to become a Fairtrade School has many benefits closer to home. It could help you to develop your own skills, have a positive influence on your local school community and – above all – it can be great fun.


For more information on Fairtrade schools you can check out the Fairtrade Schools website

Check out the  Fairtrade website to find out what other goods are available.

Traidcraft is anorganisation that campaigns for Fairtrade and can help your school to become a Fairtrade school.

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Clara is a  trained journalist who worked in newspapers for several years before leaving the profession to travel round the world. On her return to the UK, she  joined the Foreign Office where she worked in London and then at the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica. In 2005 she had her first daughter, followed by her second in 2007. She left the FCO to become a stay at home mother and to accompany her husband on postings to Pakistan and St Lucia. Now living back in the UK, she is currently training to be an antenatal teacher, writing freelance and planning a book about trailing spouses.





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Banana Image 

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