Swimming teachers must understand their role in providing quality learn to swim lessons that ensure the health and safety of children and parents. The following article outlines important things for swimming teachers to consider.
Swimming instructors should not only ensure that the environment that they are teaching is safe but ensure that they educate parents of young children on how to provide a safe swimming environment for children outside of the swimming lesson.
Swimming Instructors & Their Duty
Adult supervision within arm’s reach is essential for preschool children and non-swimmers. Even once children become independently mobile in the water parents and caregivers must always ensure that they are actively supervising children and are in a position to respond if necessary.
Laurie Lawrence believes that parents should remain in the learn-to-swim lesson with their child until they turn 4 years of age. This means that children have the one on one attention of an adult and also receive maximum practice time within the lesson which leads to faster skill acquisition.
WATER QUALITY AND WATER TEMPERATURE
Swimming instructors must ensure that we are conducting swimming lessons in water which meets national water quality regulations and guidelines.
For this reason, it is recommended that teachers consult the pool plant manager prior to the commencement of daily lessons, or have a system in place with the pool plant manager, whereby teachers are notified when the water quality or environment is not suitable to conduct swimming lessons. Teachers can also educate parents on identifying pools with poor water quality and not swimming in them.
The ideal water temperature for teaching babies and toddlers is 32 degrees Celsius. It is reasonable to assume that this temperature will fluctuate up and down a degree or two. For this reason, teachers must be prepared to look for signs that babies and toddlers are getting hot or cold and adapt the lesson accordingly.
In cooler water temperature teachers should encourage parents to stay low in the water with their child, keep the class moving, position class to avoid wind factors and adapt the lesson duration. Importantly teachers should understand that there are risks associated with pregnant women in water temperature above 34 degrees Celsius.
SWIMMING INSTRUCTOR’S EQUIPMENT AND POOL SURROUNDS
Teachers must ensure that any teaching equipment that is used in the swimming lesson is in good working order. This equipment may include toys, kick-boards, pull buoys, noodles, floating mats and movable teaching tables or ledges.
Equipment that fills up with water and is not properly drained poses a health risk to students’, particularly babies and toddlers as they put things into their mouth. All teaching equipment should be regularly disinfected and examined for deterioration.
Teachers must also ensure that their teaching equipment is positioned in a way that does not pose a tripping or slipping hazard to customers or work colleagues. Furthermore, teachers should remember to educate parents on potential dangers around equipment including, children accidentally falling into pools while reaching for toys which have been left floating on the surface or getting stuck under floating mats or suspended objects in the pool.
Teachers should also survey the pool and surrounds daily to identify potential risks and take action to eliminate or control these risks to their customers or work colleagues.
For example, risks may include slippery surrounds on the pool deck or in the change rooms, broken pool tiles, or cleaning chemicals not stored correctly. Teachers should ensure that they notify management of any potential risks they identify and take immediate action to rectify the situation.
In an event where there is an accident around the pool or during the swimming lesson, teachers should ensure they have completed an accident report form in detail immediately following the event.
WEATHER CONDITIONS AND APPROPRIATE DRESS
Weather conditions will be particularly relevant for those teachers delivering lessons in an outdoor facility. Rain, wind and sun, are just some of the environmental factors that these teachers will need to address. Teachers should encourage parents to apply sunscreen to themselves and their children prior to the commencement of the lesson while leaving adequate time for the cream to sink into the skin.
Well-fitted swimming rash vests or sun-suits are also encouraged as they provide additional protection from the sun and wind. Finally, children who are not toilet trained must be wearing tight fitted swim nappies to avoid accidents in the pool.
Teachers themselves should model sun safety practices by wearing sunscreen, hats, long sleeve rash vests, and sunglasses. Please visit www.sunsmart.com.au for detailed information on sun safety. Dehydration is a particular health risk for teachers themselves when operating in an outdoor venue.
Make sure you are drinking plenty of water and watch for initial signs and symptoms including thirst, skin flushing, dry mouth, fatigue and dizziness. Some teachers may also find they need to wear a steamer or wetsuit while teaching swimming as they are in the water for extended periods of time and feel cold by the end of their teaching shift. Teachers should also be aware of the signs of hypothermia including, uncontrollable shaking, difficulty speaking and unclear thoughts.
CONSENT FORMS AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS
Prior to the commencement of lessons parents/caregivers should complete an enrollment form for their child and family which lists, emergency contact details, medical history or conditions, a consent to participate and relevant student information including learning considerations. Teachers should then utilise this form when developing their lesson plans so that they can implement effective teaching practices and risk management strategies.
For example, teachers may identify students with asthma, epilepsy or hearing impairments. Each student will have different needs and therefore teachers must communicate with parents about their child’s specific needs and the best way to address them.
In the AUSTSWIM Teacher of Swimming and Water Safety manual, teachers can find some useful information on medical considerations and criteria for exclusion of students who are unwell. Generally speaking children, parents or teachers who have diarrhoea, vomiting, high temperatures or unusual rashes should not participate in swimming lessons. Before recommencing lessons, teachers should encourage parents/caregivers to seek professional medical advice.
EMERGENCY PREPARATION AND APPROPRIATE ACTIVITIES
Teachers must ensure they maintain a current CPR certification. CPR must be updated every 12 months. It is also recommended that teachers extend their training with an advanced first aid course. In doing so teachers will learn how to recognise and respond to common life-threatening injuries or illnesses and be more prepared if these circumstances arise.
Teachers should also communicate with their colleagues and be familiar with their workplace emergency action plan. This often involves reviewing these measures at staff meetings and practising scenarios during lessons.
Teachers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of their class. For this reason, teachers should take a roll call at the beginning and end of their class and continue to actively monitor their students throughout the duration of the lesson. Teachers must also plan activities that are safe for their students to participate in.
For example, teaching children to dive in shallow water is extremely dangerous and could result in a spinal cord injury. It is advised that teachers educate parents and students on the importance of checking water depths, reading pool signage and never diving into the water at the beach, river or lake as there is often hidden rocks, logs or debris which may cause injury.