Swimming and Water Safety
As well as being good for your child’s health, swimming is a skill that could ultimately save their life. Drowning is the third most common cause of accidental death in children, and therefore it is absolutely vital that every child has the opportunity to learn to swim and gain core knowledge regarding water safety. Even if your child can swim, they may still be exposed to danger in water in the wrong circumstances. Your child should be encouraged to practice their swimming regularly to improve their basic skills and become a more competent swimmer.
Swimming and water safety is a statutory element of the PE National Curriculum. This means:
All schools must provide swimming instruction either in Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2. In particular, pupils should be taught to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres, use a range of strokes effectively such as front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke and perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations.
Every child who attends Dunham on Trent Church of England Primary school and goes through Year 4 will receive school swimming lessons. We always take every child, regardless of their ability, to complete a 15 or 16 week block of swimming lessons at ou local swimming pool which is in Retford. This centre specialises solely in swimming lessons and our School has complete uninterrupted use of a small and large pool, plus swimming teachers.
We are a registered member of the A.S.A. School Swimming Charter and our current Year 4 children will have their swimming attainment logged in their 'Swimming Passport'. These Passports will stay in the children's school files, but pupils will also be awarded a certificate and swim badge based on the level of attainment they achieve after completing their block of their swimming lessons.
As a parent, guardian or carer you play an absolutely vital role in encouraging your child to swim and learn about water safety, survival and lifesaving. There are several ways you can help your child:
Swimming lessons at school
Swimming lessons at a local pool
Swimming as a family
It’s never too late to learn
Are you a proficient swimmer yourself? If not, set an example for your child and learn to swim – it’s a fantastic experience, and not as daunting as you might think!
Celebrate swimming successes
Just keep swimming
If you spend your time in the pool fussing about getting your hair wet and shrieking if you get splashed, you'll simply be teaching your child that it's normal to be nervous about swimming. It's important to show them that you're comfortable in the water – or at least appear to be! Get your goggles on, tie your hair back and be prepared to get wet. If you’re a bit wobbly, stay in the shallow end, but don’t underestimate how much confidence your child will gain by seeing you enjoy the water.
When you're teaching a young child or a non-swimmer to be comfortable in the water, always stay in the shallow end. Find out if there’s a shallow pool in your area; some leisure pools have a beach-like shallow end that's just a few centimetres deep – perfect for nervous youngsters. Others have a variable floor, which is raised for family sessions so the water is shallower. Never try to teach a non-swimming child to swim in the sea.
Games such as What’s the time Mr Wolf? and I Spy will get your child moving. Bring along some pool toys to splash about with, or their favourite bath toys to splash about with – Barbie and Action Man are waterproof!
Sings songs to help your child feel relaxed in the pool and get them used to the water. Have a go at the Hokey Cokey, Ring-a-ring o’ Roses, If You’re Happy and You Know It and Round the Mulberry Bush. Do the actions together such as blowing bubbles, gently splashing, trickling water and washing their hair and face.
If your child hates putting their face under, teach them to hold their breath and put only their mouth in the water at first. Then move on so they're putting their mouth and nose under; do it with them and hold hands so they can see your eyes and hair aren’t getting wet. Goggles might help them feel more confident about putting their face in the water, and can help them develop their aquatic breathing skills (and they'll love the novelty of being able to see underwater) – although bear in mind that eventually they need to be able to swim without goggles, too.
Floating is a key skill that could save your child's life if they fell into water, so it's important to teach them how to do it. Support your child on their back and sing a song such as Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for reassurance. Now try on their front. Eventually they will be able to do it on their own and can try stretching their arms and legs into a star shape, and curling up into a tuck position.
Walk through the water together, practising the arm actions for breaststroke and front crawl.
Use the side for support, with your child holding the trough or rail and lifting their legs up. Hold them under their tummy at first; you’ll know they’re feeling comfortable when they stretch out into a flatter position.
Although your goal is for your child to swim without aids, armbands and other flotation devices are brilliant for confidence. Buoyancy vests, arm discs, arm bands, woggles and floats are good to try out – always check they are British Standard-approved, and never use rubber rings for non-swimmers. Make sure your child spends time in the water without aids as well, otherwise they might begin to rely on them too much and find it difficult to learn to swim on their own. The ASA doesn't specify which type of buoyancy aid is best for children, but if your child is also doing swimming lessons (or will be in the future), it's worth asking their teacher what they'd prefer you to use.
Go the pool regularly with your child, even during the winter. It might be chilly outside, but the water will be warm and the pool is likely to be less crowded than in the summer. Like anything, improvement will happen much quicker if your child keeps practising.
This is a very important lesson in your child’s swimming skills. Teach your child to sit on the side of the pool. Teach your child to turn around while holding the side of the pool and safely enter the water. This entry allows them to keep their head above water when they enter the pool.
Get your child to hold onto the pool side with both hands. Encourage your child to pull their body up and then rest their body on the side before lifting up a knee for a full exit.
If you can afford it, consider taking your child to swimming lessons in addition to going swimming as a family. Look for lessons run by an ASA-qualified teacher, with no more than 12 children in the class. For beginners' classes, the teacher will usually be in the water with the children, and teaching will be through a games-based approach, introducing strokes and techniques gradually. It's worth keeping up with swimming lessons even if your child is also going swimming with school: the ASA says this is the ideal approach to helping kids learn to swim, and as well as learning a life-saving skill, your child will be developing a healthy habit that could last a lifetime.
Don't know where your nearest pool is? Use the Poolfinder website