Swim Schools should incorporate water safety education and water safety skills into their formal learn to swim programs. Parents are looking directly to Swim Schools and Swimming Teachers to help them become educated on water safety. While many Swim Schools participate in national swim safety weeks, we as an industry must commit to continue water safety education messages and safety considerations all year round.
Water Safety Games
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 utilize, including:
- 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
Keeping Students Safe
It is the responsibility of all swim schools and their teaching staff to conduct swimming lessons in a safe learning environment. It’s also essential for swimming teachers to follow a water safety plan when delivering classes; We have outlined a plan below for swimming teachers to use as a guide.
Water Safety Plan
When teaching swimming, you should always consider who you are teaching: their age, their ability and their background. Before lessons commence, parents or participants will have filled out an enrolment form. This will help to provide teachers with any essential information which may affect the safety considerations, including medical conditions or learning difficulties. It is important that teachers communicate directly with parents so that they understand policies, procedures and activities related to their child’s swimming lesson. When teaching children under the age of four, it is advisable to enlist the help of parents to supervise their children. Before the commencement of lessons parents and children must be informed of the pool rules and swimming teachers should enforce these rules to ensure safe aquatic experiences.
Before lessons commence
There are many things that a swimming teacher should do prior to commencing their teaching shift, to ensure they deliver safe swimming lessons.
- Check in with administration or deck staff
- Ensure class role is up to date
- Check for hazards in or around the pool
- Check teaching equipment is in good working order
- Position a rescue aid and whistle for emergency signal
To ensure teachers are providing a safe learning environment, they should always:
- Define teaching space with markers or lane ropes
- Mark attendance and refresh on learning implications
- Revise pool and class rules with students
- Consistently perform a head count of swimmers
- Insist on safe pool entry and exit
- Maintain supervision of your class at all times
After the lesson
After the lesson, teachers should follow up with the below steps:
- Ensure swimmers are back in the care of their guardian
- Pack up all teaching equipment
- Check for and remove potential hazards
- Report attendance to administration
- Revise and refresh your lesson plan in preparation for next lesson
Hazard and Safety Considerations and Identification
Remember there are many additional hazards within an aquatic centre, including slippery surfaces, chemicals, the pool plant equipment and the pool itself. Lifeguards, parents, teaching staff and management must all work together to ensure the health and safety all of patrons who attend the venue. You should regularly remind and encourage your colleagues to continually assess and identify potential hazards in the aquatic environment. This will allow a swim school to eliminate the risks and either take action immediately or reduce and control the risks by implementing policies and procedures.
Water Safety for Preschool Children
Up until children turn four, Laurie recommends parental or caregiver involvement in the swimming lesson. This allows for:
- A safe and secure learning environment
- Bonding between parent and child
- An expectation by the child that they should always swim with Mum, Dad or the trusting adult
- Maximum practice time in the swimming lesson
- The development of optimal swimming and water safety skills
During the preschool stage, the unsupervised child may be capable of:
- Filling the bath, laundry tub or play pool with water
- Climbing the fence
- Pulling objects up to the pool fence to help them open the gate
- Opening the front door and wander into the neighbors unfenced pool or fish pond
As a result, swimming teachers should remind parents to continue their diligence with supervision and secure the home from potential water hazards. This is also a great time to set some ground rules with children around water. Creating a routine in preparation for water play will also play an important role in water safety. For example, teach the child that before playing in water they must get dressed into their swimwear and collect their towel, sunscreen and toys in preparation.
Parents and swimming teachers should work together to set and enforce ground rules for playing in the pool. Children should learn not to
- Jump into shallow water
- Run around wet surfaces
- Hold other children underwater
- Push or play rough in the water
- Play dares e.g. holding their breath underwater
Children should also learn to recognise lifeguards and follow their instructions. However it’s also important that caregivers learn to supervise children at all times. Even children who are very confident and competent with swimming skills can find themselves in dangerous situations.
Exploration Under Supervision
Once children have learnt to swim and are independently mobile in the water it is important that they are given an opportunity to explore and play in deep water. This exploration must always be done with a supervising adult for safety considerations. Remember exploration is an important part of learning as children have the freedom to do things for themselves so that they learn their limitations and boundaries.
Personal Floatation Devices
If parents are in a situation where they have to supervise more than one non-swimmer it may be advisable to use personal flotation devices (PFD). But nothing beats active one-on-one supervision and keeping a preschool child at arm’s reach at all times. Swimming teachers should advise parents to choose a PFD that complies with Australian standards and fits children comfortably and securely.
Shallow water play pools
Shallow water play areas are ideal for non-swimmers and frightened learners. Here they can learn their capabilities and learn to enjoy the water through exploration and play. Learning to swim must be fun and forcing children into deep water before they are comfortable in the shallow will frighten them.
Safety Considerations for School Swimming
Swim schools and swimming teachers should work with parents and urge them to teach their children to swim before they start school. While some schools offer swimming lessons as part of the physical education program, many do not. In most cases, schools don’t provide enough lessons to teach children to swim competently. Parents need to know that learning to swim will take years to accomplish.
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