Incorporating water safety into your program

Swim Schools should incorporate water safety education and water safety skills into their formal learn to swim programs. Swim schools are responsible for developing the future attitudes and beliefs of our next generation. During the 24th to the 30th of November 2014, hundreds of swim schools participated in the Swim Australia National Energy Australia Swim Safer week. If you didn’t participate this year we encourage you to get on board with this fantastic initiative next year. Swim Schools should also make a commitment to continue with their water safety education messages and skills in the swimming lesson all year round.


Water safety games and activities very often fit nicely into the warm up or final activity of a lesson plan. Children love using their imaginations and swimming teachers can very easily take the children on a journey to the beach, river, creek or farm to highlight different water hazards or dangers in a fun and exciting way. There are a huge variety of different water safety scenarios or activities the creative teacher can utilise. However some common ideas to incorporate in activities may include,

  • Never swimming alone
  • Swimming between the flags while at the beach
  • Wearing a personal floating device while boating or fishing
  • Entering the water safely e.g. assessing water depth and potential debris
  • Following rules and reading signage
  • How to respond in an emergency
  • How to signal for help
  • Rescue techniques and the importance of self preservation
  • Sun safety and dressing appropriately for aquatic environments
  • The importance of active parental supervision
  • Encouraging parents to learn CPR and first aid skills


With the help of the Australian Government Laurie through his Kids Alive – do the five drowning prevention program has release a water safety pack which has been delivered free to all swim schools registered with AUSTSWIM and Swim Australia. These free resources can be downloaded at no charge via the Kids Alive website at the following link Laurie encourages all swim schools to inform families who are attending their centre to log on and get these new water safety resources including animations, e-books and music so that they can continue the water safety education messages at home.

Laurie Lawrence


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Utilising Swim Teaching Equipment

Laurie has always pushed the mantra of “maximum practice time” in his swim school. Over the past 45 years Laurie has operated his swim schools in various locations with a variety of different teaching environments. Swim school owners and operators are constantly chasing that illusive ideal teaching environment. Specifically designed teaching pools naturally lend themselves to maximum practice time and allow for ideal teaching environments especially for teaching babies or timid beginners. However in the absence of that specifically designed environment swim schools certainly can utilise the assistance of pool equipment to assist in the delivery of quality lessons.


Movable teaching benches or platforms have come a long way since Laurie built his own out of marine ply in the 70’s. These benches are ideal for assisting children who are unable to stand up in deep water, or support children as they learn to back float and even create a location where babies can learn to pull themselves up. Teachers will have a variety of uses for these benches, however the swim school must put policies and procedures in place to make sure that this type of equipment is maintained and used safely. Supervision is essential when utilising teaching platforms and children and parents must be educated on safe practice. For example never swimming under or through them and pointing out to parents where the bench is submerged underwater. Regular inspection of the benches to ensure that they are free from wear and tear which may result in injury is essential. These teaching platforms can easily develop sharp edges or rough surfaces over time and result in cuts and abrasions to children, parents and teachers. Kirby Swim produces fantastic quality platforms and we have recently purchased some of these to assist us in teaching swimming in an outdoor 25 metre facility.


Floating mats are another great tool especially in baby and learn to swim classes. For baby classes large rubber floating mats can be used for back floating, balance, crawling, climbing, entry and exit swimming skills. In learn to swim lessons teachers can also generate maximum practice time by using mats to assist with a variety of back floating and kicking skills. Again, these mats should always be used under strict supervision. It is very easy for children of all ages to become trapped under floating mats. Furthermore leaving these mats around on the pool deck can become a major slipping hazard, especially once the mat is wet. For this reason this type of equipment should be securely removed and stored when not in use.


Laurie believes that less is more when it comes to teaching equipment. For baby classes, plastic cups and balls can be more than enough. With learn to swim classes a simple kick board and diving toys can also be sufficient. There is a huge variety out there but the most important thing to remember is that equipment must have a swimming related purpose. Teachers should never use equipment to fill in time. Squeezy toys that hold water are extremely unsuitable for babies as they are prone to holding unhygienic water and babies naturally put objects in their mouth. Toys left floating on the surface of the water can also be a hazard especially to toddlers who are naturally curious and can fall into the water trying to reach them. Swim schools should be educating their families, especially those with home pools, on the importance of storing toys and accessories securely and out of site. Swim schools should have policies and procedures around regular cleaning and disinfecting teaching equipment and disregarding any faulty equipment.

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Swim School

Guidelines for Safe Pool Operation

Understanding the roles and responsibilities for operating a learn to swim school can be a daunting task for managers, owners and operators. Generating protocols and procedures that ensure safe work practices for your employees and safe recreation opportunities for your customers is essential.


To ensure that your swim school is meeting the industry standards and best practice for safe pool operations recommends operators utilise the Guidelines for Safe Pool Operations (GSPO) published by Royal Life Saving.


The GSPO is a single reference point and a collaboration of information and expectations set out by the broader aquatic industry in Australia. This document looks at many areas including technical operations, first aid, supervision and programs and is under continual review.


Visit to subscribe to the latest Guidlines for Safe Pool Operations.

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Early Years Swimming Research

Swim school operators, did you know that we now have concrete evidence of the benefits of learning to swim?

Griffith University lead a 4 years study sponsored by the swimming industry. This four-year explored the possibility that early years swimming may enhance the learning of young children.

The project focused on the under-5s and employed a number of research strategies to formally explore a strong observation by coaches and teachers in the swim industry that young swimmers are more confident, more articulate, more social and perhaps even a little ‘smarter’ than their non-swimming peers.

A large survey was conducted each year asking parent to report on their children’s development. The responses were then correlated and compared to the expected progression through developmental milestones. To test the veracity of this data, a sample of swimming children was then further assessed by developmental psychologists using internationally approved testing methods.

Swim schools themselves were also examined – the physical environments were assessed and the pedagogies employed by swim schools were profiled.

To read these extremely important reports and to gain a great understanding of the benefits swimming provides in the early years of a child’s life, click on this link.

Laurie Lawrence, Australia’s water safety ( advocate and baby teaching expert has been researching and documenting infant learn to swim since 1975. During this time he has also anecdotally observed infants and young children receive numerous benefits from participating in learn-to-swim programs.


Laurie believes learning to swim from infancy will:

  • Teach children a respect for the water making them less likely to wander into dangerous situations.
  • Improve children’s physical development, coordination, health, fitness and muscle tone.
  • Build children’s independence, confidence and social skills.
  • Teach children a love of the water – a gift for life.

Teach children a skill which may one day save their life.

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Swim Teaching Image

Conducting Feedback Observation Sessions

Feedback observation sessions are a great tool for professional development within your Swim School. These observation sessions allow Swim Schools to analyse, critique and reflect on their learn-to-swim program and also their teacher’s performances.

Tips for conducting feedback observation sessions


  • Ensure the person carrying out the session is completely familiar with all policies, teaching methods and terminology used at the Swim School.
  • During the session be sure to situate yourself in a position where you will be able to see and hear the instructor involved without causing any interference to the lesson.
  • Be professional. Try to position yourself away from parents and be discrete with your recording procedure.
  • Follow a consistent format by recording on a feedback form, then make notes or expanding on points.
  • Discuss the feedback form with the instructor but be sure to go though the feedback in a place that will not cause any embarrassment to either party.
  • Photocopy the feedback form and give a copy to the instructor involved. Place the other copy in the staff record book.


Feedback observation sessions should not be seen as an assessment of a persons’ teaching ability, but rather a constructive means of providing positive feedback to all teachers at the Swim School. The feedback should be intended to help everyone become highly qualified teachers through continual training, retraining and positive feedback. It should also be used to identify areas that your program can be improved and highlight areas the Swim School can work on during their in house professional development sessions.

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Recruiting the right swimming staff

Swimming instructors are the life blood of the learn-to-swim industry. They are required to build the trust of families they have never met and take on the responsibility of providing children with a skill that will stay with them for life. Team a capable group of instructors with friendly, welcoming, and knowledgeable reception personnel, and you are on your way to creating a successful business.


Recruiting the right team is vital for swim school owners and operators in order to build a thriving business. In many instances, swim schools are the first educational environment parents introduce their children to. Oftentimes, parents may enrol their children in swimming lessons even before they are enrolled into childcare. For this reason swim schools need to ensure that they hire a team who not only posses the right skills and knowledge to interact with families but have the right motivations and values to ensure they stay with the swim school for the long term.


Establishing long term relationships and patronage with families enrolled in a swim school will undoubtedly contribute to the overall success of the business operation. With this in mind, and understanding the importance families place on swimming with particular instructors, it can be detrimental to the business if your swim school has a high staff turnover. Clients may see it as a reflection on the business if their favourite instructors are continually moving on and being replaced with someone new. This can be difficult to combat as the swimming industry can be seasonal depending on the location or the facility from which a swim school may operate and this can result in swim schools only being able to offer employment on a casual basis. Implementing the right recruitment process, coupled with a great working environment will boost a swim school’s staff retention and in turn boost their business. Below is a series of tips to help with the recruitment process.


1. Prepare for the Interview

Before conducting any interview it is important that the interviewer thoroughly reads through the applicants CV or resume. The interviewer should try to establish questions which will allow them to draw out more specific information about the person. The person conducting the interview should ensure they have a list of questions to ask prior to conducting the interview. Interviews should be conducted in an environment free from distractions. This can be difficult at swim schools particularly during lesson times, therefore, choose an appropriate time of day to make this easier.


2. Behavioural Questioning

Behavioural questioning can help swim schools identify future performance of candidates. The idea behind behavioural questioning is to ask applicants how they would respond to certain situations or how they have responded to situations in the past. By having applicants explain past experiences, the interviewer can identify whether the ideas and values of the applicant, are similar to that of the swim school.


3. Communicate Professionally and Clearly with the Applicant

Make sure you introduce yourself and anyone else in attendance. Explain to applicants the swim school’s history, future plans and goals and objectives. Give a brief overview of what will happen during the interviewing process and ensure you clearly explain to the applicant the roles and responsibilities for the position you are trying to fill. Make sure you ask the applicant if they have any questions about the role or the swim school. Finally, inform applicants of when they will be notified if they were successful or not in obtaining the position.


4. Review the Applicant

After conducting the interview give yourself time to make notes immediately following. This will ensure you have fresh in your mind any answers, impressions, personal style or attributes which will enable you to make a balanced opinion after interviewing other candidates. Take time to follow up on references as they help to ensure that you select a candidate that is appropriate for your team.

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