ONE year after a 16-year old boy drowned in the River Thames a national campaign has been launched urging children using the waterways to stay safe this summer.

Drowning prevention charity The Royal Life Saving Society UK (RLSS UK) launched its awareness campaign on Friday and today marks the start of Drowning Prevention Week, which runs until June 26.

It comes just over a year after Ellis Downes, from Harwell, died on May 7, 2016, while swimming just off The Burycroft in Culham with friends.

Tributes poured in for the teenager after his death, which was later ruled 'a tragic accident' by Oxfordshire's coroner.

Now campaigners are urging parents to raise the issue of water safety as schools and leisure centres host a number of workshops and information sessions aiming at promoting safety when using the waterways.

Di Steer, RLSS UK’s chief executive, said of the national campaign: “We want as many children as possible to learn essential water safety skills, especially at this high-risk time of year.

“Water safety education is at the heart of everything RLSS UK does.

"Accidental drowning is wholly preventable and by encouraging leisure centres to get involved, we effectively extend our work force and potentially save lives.”

Drowning is a leading cause of accidental death for children in the UK according to the charity, with recent statistics showing that in the past five years 48 children aged nine and under drowned, and 147 young people aged 10 to 19 lost their lives.

The summer months are a particularly high-risk time of year.

Last year, 85 people accidentally drowned in July and August alone.

About 400 leisure centres across the UK, along with schools, community groups, and businesses have signed up to host targeted water safety activities as part of the RLSS UK’s national Drowning Prevention Week campaign, allowing for hundreds of thousands of children to be taught how to stay safe near water this summer.

For further information on Drowning Prevention Week and on how to get involved visit