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Taking responsibility

Target Group

Key Stage 1


In this case study, we see how an end-of-term school outing nearly turned to tragedy when a small boy fell off his bicycle into a canal. As others looked on in horror, 13-year old Clifford Hope, a good swimmer, took action.

Cliff Hope, Bristol. Courtesy Birstol Evening Post & Press.Clifford Hope, Bristol

By the middle of July, the school year is nearly over and the long summer holiday is about to begin. Towards the end of the summer term 2002, Cliff Hope and his classmates set off on a cycle ride along the Kennet and Avon Canal. Two teachers were with them. Coming towards them, also on his bike, was a small boy of about 5-years old, with his father walking alongside.

Suddenly, a large dog bounded up to the child. He looked up, lost his balance and toppled into the canal - along with his bicycle.

Cliff didn't hesitate.

Cliff Hope near the scene of his brave rescue on the Kennet & Avon Canal. Photo courtesy Bristol Evening Post & Press'I got off my bike and jumped in,' he recalls. 'The kiddie was drowning - he obviously couldn't swim. I can swim, and I like swimming in rivers, too.

The Canal is about 2 metres deep at that point, so Cliff, at just under 5 foot tall, couldn't touch the bottom. He swam a few metres to the middle, got hold of the lad and brought him back to the bank where he was pulled out by his very grateful Dad - an American visitor on holiday in Bath.

The boy was safe, but Cliff knew that the bicycle was still lying on the bottom of the canal. So he immediately swam back to the middle and dived down until he'd found the bike.

'The boy's father was pretty chuffed,' Cliff says, 'and took out his wallet and offered me some money. But I didn't take it.'

Cliff remembers that it was "a boiling hot day", but once he was out of the water, he started to feel very, very cold. Some of his classmates had to lend him their clothes to help warm him up.

Cliff Hope with deputy head teacher, Andrew Wait. Courtesy BBC OnlineAndrew Wait, one of the teachers with the group, was so impressed with Cliff's actions that he nominated him for a Royal Humane Society bravery award.

Mr Wait, who's been a teacher for about 30 years, says: 'It was a very selfless and brave act. In all my teaching experience, it's the bravest act by a child that I've ever seen.'

Cliff himself is very modest about what he did. 'Anybody would have done the same thing, I reckon,' he says. 'If I hadn't done it, one of my mates would have,' he insists.

As well as his Testimonial on Parchment from the Royal Humane Society, Cliff won a Gold Star Award from the Bristol Evening Post.

'It's a good feeling afterwards,' says Cliff, 'and I'm very pleased to get these awards.'

Class discussion:

  • What made Cliff Hope take action when others didn't?
  • What else could he have done?
  • Have you ever been in a crowd of people and acted like everyone else?
  • What would you do if you saw someone fall into a canal or river or lake?
  • How do you call the emergency services?


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