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Learn to swim – Is it one size fits all?

5 December 2008
Media Release
For immediate release

Learn to swim – Is it one size fits all solution?                               

What is the key to building a water safety culture and continuing the downward trend in the Auckland region’s drowning toll? Is it just learning to swim or is it a whole-school and community approach to aquatics and water safety education? 

Park Estate, a Decile 1 school in Papakura, has found the latter more effective in meeting the needs of their students and community. “The teaching of swimming skills is not of the high importance it used to be,” says Yvette Israel, Lead Teacher, Aquatics.

“Teaching our children water safety skills has been more beneficial. They [the students] are learning to keep themselves safe and transferring that knowledge back to their families and communities,” she said. “Aquatics has taken on new meaning for our school with the children learning to think critically when they are in, on and around water.”

The New Zealand Curriculum 2007 states that it is expected that all students will have had opportunities to learn basic aquatic skills by the end of Year 6.

While the skill of learning to swim is fundamental to safe enjoyment of the water, it is just one part of the complex picture of safe aquatic participation and schools face many challenges and barriers when it comes to the delivery of aquatics education and meeting the specific needs of their students.

Cost of transport and entry to public pools, maintenance costs and closure of school pools, crowded curriculum, lack of pre-service teacher training and ongoing professional development, lack of student and community participation, and parental and cultural attitudes towards swimming and aquatics – all are common issues for schools.  

“Clearly aquatics education is a high-cost activity both in terms of professional demands and financial costs,” says Dr Kevin Moran, Principal Lecturer in Health and Physical Education, Faculty of Education,  University of Auckland and Chairman of WaterSafe Auckland.

‘Parental Supervision on Beaches’ a recently published research study of Dr Moran’s identified a distinct lack of children’s knowledge around water safety.

“If aquatics education is to continue to be taught as part of the curriculum, serious consideration needs to be given as to how to assist schools in these two areas if all children in the region [Auckland] are to receive the aquatics education they deserve,” he says.

WaterSafe Auckland will continue working in partnership with key stakeholders from the education, aquatic and health sectors to ensure water safety education meets the needs of the region’s diverse communities.

Park Estate was one of nine schools working with WaterSafe Auckland over the past year under a successful ASB Community Trust funded project designed to assist Primary and Intermediate schools develop and implement their own aquatics and learn to swim programme. With ongoing support from the Trust this project will continue in 2009 with another 15 low-decile schools on board.  

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