School participation in swimming programs has changed significantly over the last 10 to 15 years. Often, we see schools only being available to participate in a school based swimming program for minimal amounts of time each year. What used to be an eight to ten lesson, 45min program has now become a four to five lesson, 30min program.
This dramatic reduction in overall swimming lesson time from what was about 7.5 hours down to what can be as low as a 2 hour program. Often this is done with no change to what the school and/or swimming parent expects to gain from the program.
Further to this, a great majority of school program parents tend to rely on the idea that once their child has done their swimming lessons at school, they don’t have to worry about joining private program lessons, when in actual fact, attending 2 hours of swimming lesson per year is certainly not enough time to teach a child water safety and swimming skills.
I make the comparison to another learned skill: reading. How long does it take for a child to learn how to read? Swimming is a learned skill, it is not a natural ability like walking for instance, and as such an appropriate amount of time, and repetition is required to gain the skills needed to become safe in and around the water.
Recently, in a world first study, Deakin University conducted a year long study into the learning and retention of swim and safety skills and found that undertaking an intensive school swim program alone is not enough to keep Australian children safe.
Kate Moncrieff and Jacqui Peters, lecturers within Deakin University’s School of Education, found that while school swimming intensives resulted in an improvement of swimming and water safety skills, children in the earlier stages of learning tended to lose the skills they had gained when retested again at the end of the school year.
“Extending the accessibility to swimming lessons beyond intensive school swim programs is important to ensure all children, no matter what level, are retaining these vital skills.
“The findings have prompted us to call for a review of the State’s school swim programs to ensure they meet the development needs of Victorian children,” says Moncrieff.