Swim Skills are Declining

It’s difficult to quantify the statistical significance of how effective swimming lessons can be, however research out of the US suggests that formal swimming lessons can reduce the risk of drowning for children aged one to four by 88%. This is significant, especially considering that drowning remains the leading cause of accidental death in this age group.

I cannot stress enough that children need ongoing weekly swimming instruction to maintain their swimming and water safety skills. At every age, structured swim classes help kids become familiar with, and confident around, water and set the foundation for later swimming skills and aquatic safety. However, swim skills seem to be decreasing, as evidenced by the decline in school swimming carnival participation and the introduction of non-compulsory “twilight’ swimming carnivals after school. It’s a far cry from the old days when it seemed most children could swim 50 metres and actively wanted to race!

It is generally accepted that the optimum age to start formal structured swimming lessons is six months of age, and the sooner a child is able to get themselves back to the side of the
pool independently, the better. Our program has children swimming independently of their parent or carer from around 2 years of age. Children should then move progressively through their swimming goals until all milestones are reached.

Children who are 11-12 years old should be able to continuously swim 50m using freestyle or backstroke, scull (use their arms to move around in the water) float or tread water for two
minutes, throw a rescue flotation aid to a partner at five metres away and swim fully clothed, in swimwear or normal clothes (to simulate an accidental fall into water). Royal Lifesaving reports that children who had regular weekly lessons were most likely to reach these national safety and swimming benchmarks at age nine and 10, yet sadly only 25 per cent were staying in lessons long enough to reach this standard.

As for teenagers – well, this age group isn’t always known for making the best decisions. At this age parents and teachers should be addressing any lacking swim skills, as well as knowledge, behaviour and attitudes of this group of students to promote safer and sensible behaviour in water environments.

We have been teaching the local community to swim and educating about general water safety for over 30 years, with trusted Learn To Swim programs from babies to adults. The structure and discipline learnt in our program – often a child’s first lesson experience – promote optimum learning outcomes, and their ultimate safety. Please, get your kids swimming!