The DLSA holds 8 Assessment Weeks every year, Mid Program Assessment Week and End of Program Assessment Week for each of our 4 Perpetual Programs.
These weeks are always a very hectic time for our entire Team as we work to assess more than 2,500 swimmers and track their progress along their Water Safety Journey, while maintaining parental and children's expectations against our experience and knowledge of how to best provide our Program.
My Level Progression and Assessment Process has been operating and evolving since I began my program in 1994. Literally 10s of 1000s of children have learnt to swim following my program.
We know our Assessment Weeks can be a busy, stressful and sometimes confusing time. So I wanted to put some thoughts and experience on the blog page in an effort to educate our parents on a number of the complexities that surround assessing our swimmers.
Firstly, here are some important things we want our parents to be aware of regarding Assessment Weeks:
Assessments are not 'black and white', there are a lot of grey areas we also need to consider, in-fact an Assessor often has to take into account a wide range of factors that can add to, or detract from a decision to assess up or continue in the current level.
Being ready to go up is not a 'one day you're a no, and the next day you are a yes'. We talk about the 'Assessment Window' of time. This is the time, usually a month or so, where we could say, yes the swimmers is technically performing 'ABC' well enough, but would benefit from a bit more time in this level regardless.
The Level Progression skills are detailed and integrated. Even if the swimmer could technically be considered to go to the next level, but doesn't for a particular reason, it doesn't mean they are not still getting skill development in their current level. They are continuing to improve their skills at this level and will be even better prepared for the next level when they arrive.
Do not compare your child's skill to others. There are a wide range of Assessment Criteria that goes into each assessment. We assess each child individually and often there are other items affecting an individual's assessment that might not be obvious to everyone else.
Always celebrate the positives. This is a time to LIFT your child's confidence. If they move to the next level, ring that victory bell, get that certificate and assessment sticker to stick on the DLSA Journey Poster. If your child didn't move up a level, still celebrate the small wins... Teach RESILIENCE. Talk about how learning to swim is an important and challenging skill, and it takes time, persistence and patience.
Progression is not continuous. Not just children, all of us when learning new skills go through the same pattern of skill development/growth/muscle memory/coordination, followed by a plateau and even skill regression while the body adapts, before recovering and starting to progress again. This is totally normal.
Contact us if you have a concern. It is our goal to progress swimmers through our program. If you have a concern about your child's progression, we want to know. We will always take a closer look, arrange another assessment, talk to the teacher involved and will work to see if there is something more we need to do to help/support your child.
Here are a few items a DLSA Assessor considers when assessing Water Confidence & Learn-to-Swim Levels:
Time in level - In most cases, a swimmers should not remain in the same level for more than 40 classes. Swimming one lesson a week, 40 classes represents 3 full programs. But swimming 2 lessons per week this represents only 1 and a half lessons per week. The DLSA recommends swimming 2 lessons per week where possible. If a swimmer has remained in the same level for 40 lessons or more, we take action to ensure progression is achieved in the very near future.
Lesson attendance - This relates also to time in level, sometimes we have feedback that a swimmer has been in a level for 12 months, however when we review the attendance we can see irregular attendance or absent program bookings. A child cannot progress their skill if they aren't regularly practicing their skills.
Age of the swimmer YOUNGER (Water Confidence & Learn-to-Swim Levels) - Sometimes we see a swimmer we consider to be younger than the average age for a particular level, but their skill level is strong for the level they are swimming in. In this instance, we need to consider whether or not to progress to the next level. Our thought process is, yes the child swimming the skills to an appropriate level, however knowing what is to come in the next level, we may feel it best for the younger child to continue to advance their skills in this level so that, when they commence the next level, they are not just 'scraping through', they actually have a skill level that can more easily handle the new level.
Age of the swimmer OLDER - Sometimes we see a swimmer who is older than the average age of the swimmers in that particular level. A consideration for an Assessor here is, even though the swimmer isn't swimming the skill to the exact skill level, given the older swimmer is usually stronger with a higher level of coordination and will be more capable of taking on challenging skills in the next level, will progressing to the next actually benefit that swimmer.
Strength & coordination of the swimmer - Everyone is different. All children have varying rates of strength and coordination development, usually linked to growth spurts etc. Again, when considering the ability for the child to go to the next level, the Assessor, knowing what will be expected of the swimmer in the next level, makes a judgment call based on the individual child they are assessing. Sometime the judgement will be yes go up and sometimes it won't.
Character/confidence of swimmer - Moving up a level can be daunting to some children. Sometimes we have a swimmer that could technically move to the next level, but we know them to be a timid character, perhaps quiet/shy. In these instances we generally seek input from the parent, who will have a better understanding about whether or not their child will rise to a challenge or could regress if the challenge is too great.
Teacher input on their usual skill - We know that sometimes a swimmer can have a bad day... We all have them right! So sometimes a DLSA Teacher will say that the swimmers usually gets that skill going really well, but is not doing it well today.
Experienced Teacher input - We have a Team of Assessors, usually our Senior Teachers and Training Mentors. These very experienced Teachers also have their own classes. Sometimes an Assessor will not need to fully assess an experienced Teacher's class, instead that Teacher has the ability to inform the Assessor of the assessment results.
Swimming to the best of their ability - Sometimes we have a swimmer that just really struggles with mastering a specific skill. We also see swimmers who don't display a natural level of aquatic coordination. In these cases, an Assessor may need to make the judgment call that suggests that, that swimmer is swimming this skill and level the best of their ability and needs to progress, even though technically, they haven't mastered some of the specific skills.
So there's a bit of a deep dive into Assessing from my point of view. We will always work to progress swimmers whenever we can, that is our goal. Sometimes Assessors don't get it 100% right, sometimes Assessors can see things differently. In a perfect world it would just be a black and white set of parameters... But that's just not the reality.
But don't stress, if this happens, we always get a second opinion and/or produce a video assessment for various Senior Teachers and/or myself to review. If you ever have a concern about an assessment, please do not hesitate to contact our Admin Team. Usually easiest to email them direct. Action will be taken.
Also, if you happen to miss Assessment Week, don't stress, we can arrange an assessment for your child the next time they are in for a lesson, you just need to let us know.
I really hope you learnt something from my blog today... Thank you so much for your support. My Team and I truely do work very hard to meet your expectations with our primary goal of supporting your child through their Water Safety Journey.
Darren Lange OLY