A Huntingdon charity has thrown its weight behind comments made by a coroner who called for swimming lesson provision to be improved in schools after hearing how a teenager drowned in the river at Hartford last summer.

The Huntingdon Freemen's Trust provides grant funding to individuals and organisations in the Huntingdon Town Council area and currently allocates £19 per pupil per year for activities which fall outside the National Curriculum.

The seven trustees will be writing to all schools in the catchment area in the next few weeks and actively encouraging head teachers to apply for the money, which could be used for swimming lessons and the teaching of life-saving skills.

The group's chief executive Ruth Black said: "The tragic drowning of Rony John last year, and the subsequent coroner's statement in last week's Hunts Post, highlights the dangers of swimming in open water. "The coroner also called on schools to place an emphasis on the teaching of swimming and the Huntingdon Freemen's Trust supports this view and encourages local schools to include additional provision of swimming and life-saving skills within any applications for funding.

"We don't want to dictate to schools and we are not replacing what is there already, we want to support schools to ensure that all children can swim as part of their normal life skills."

An inquest at Huntingdon on April 16 heard that Rony John, aged 15, drowned at Riverside Green in Hartford on July 24 last year on the first day of the summer holidays. Rony, who was a poor swimmer, jumped into the river with friends and quickly found himself in difficulty. Despite attempts to save him, the youngster drowned and his body was discovered the following morning.

"This was a terrible tragedy and it had a huge impact on lots of people, particularly Rony's family and his school friends. We must all do what we can to ensure that children are educated about the dangers of open water," added Mrs Black.

The Freemen's Trust was set up in 1993 by the High Court to administer assets and funds on behalf of the people of Huntingdon. The trustees invite grant applications from people and organisations based in the Huntingdon Town Council catchment area. You can apply at:

www.huntingdonfreemen.org.uk; email enquiries@huntingdonfreemen.org.uk; call 01480 414909 or go along to 37 High Street between Monday and Thursday, from 10am till 3pm.