Swimming and water safety is now part of the National Curriculum. Yes, yet another thing that schools are now responsible for which seems a little unfair. But it does mean that all kids should be able to swim by the time they leave primary school, including those whose parents don’t get them lessons outside of school, or never take them swimming. I think the level they need to reach is quite high – in my view you don’t need to learn all the strokes to swim, just learn to float, be safe, and be able to swim enough on front and back any which way it comes.
School Run point out that:
Swimming and water safety is a statutory part of the National Curriculum, with the aim that by the age of 11 (the end of key stage 2) all pupils should be taught to:
- pace themselves in floating and swimming challenges related to speed, distance and personal survival
- swim unaided for a sustained period of time over a distance of at least 25 metres
- use recognised arm and leg actions, lying on their front and back
- use a range of recognised stroke and personal survival skills (such as front crawl, backstroke, breaststroke, sculling, floating and surface dives)
N has been having lessons since he was 4 months old and it’s been painful. He was never really a fan of swimming, but since finishing toddler swimming lessons and going into lessons without me, he’s come on lots. After 6 years he can swim 25 metres on his back, and 15 metres on his front at a push. It’s still painful, although he’s got good technique (on back), pretty good technique and understanding on his front, although finds it harder to put together, and is more confident in the way. He now enjoys swimming.
Starting at school means that children who didn’t learn earlier should be strong enough to pick it up quickly. They say 4 is a good age to start lessons but legs don’t really strengthen enough to motor along until kids are 6-7 and regularly riding a bike. In my opinion, it was noticeable how a little bit of growth, and little bit more leg strength really helped N.
But going from swimming lessons outside of school where he’s got me in the changing room to help him get changed and organised, and to encourage him to swimming with school is a different matter.
Most schools by us seem to start taking children swimming once they hit year 3. In our school it’s year 2 (with year 2-4 going swimming each week). I remember the days when we’d pay our 30p each week to school, the bus would come and we’d go off to the leisure centre in town to swim. It’s not that different now apart from N’s school having swimming at a local private school pool (the same one and teachers N goes to) at the end of the day, so they only have 1 coach journey there and parents have to somehow pick them up at the swimming pool rather than the usual pick up routine. It’s not each for kids who usually do wrapround care or after school clubs but it seems to get managed somehow.
However much swimming your children do, they can still be daunted by this change to school swimming. N went through a moan that he didn’t want to go, then he did, then he was excited, and on the first time it all went well. And each week he tells me everything that they’ve done and what the order is of everything that gets done. So far he’s not lost anything either. Result!
Tips on getting kids ready for school swimming lessons
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1, Take them swimming before
They don’t need to be able to swim, but they need to be able to listen, behave, and not be scared of going in the pool. If your child is scared of the water, you don’t want them to be the one in front of everyone else crying and petrified to go in the pool
2, If possible visit the pool beforehand so they have an idea of what it’s like there, and where they’ll probably be going
3, Ensure they can get themselves dressed and undressed for swimming
They might have been getting themselves dressed for years, but if they’ve only ever been swimming with parents, sometimes they’re lazy and you help them. Get them used to doing it (in wet swimming gear) on their own. N wears a rash vest for his out of school lessons, but he struggles to get the arms off when wet, so for school lessons he just wears trunks.
4, Explain clearly what you want them to do with clothes.
Clothes will probably just be dumped on the benches and not in lockers, so with school uniform even if it is named, it stands a good chance of being picked up by other people. N knows that when he gets undressed all his uniform needs to be put in his swimming bag. And afterwards, his wet trunks should go inside his swimming cap and that is then rolled up inside his towel. 3 weeks in and so far so good. It helps that he’s seen me do that for the last 2 years.
5, Make sure your child has the gear they need
Some schools ask all children to wear a swimming hat (tips on swimming caps) so make sure they have one, and some swimming instructors don’t allow swimming goggles to be worn, so check ahead of time if your child has to wear them for medical reasons. Make sure they have suitable swimming costumes – no complicated straps for girls and stick with a costume not a bikini.
Some simple tips, but they really helped ease N into starting school swimming lessons.
What age do your children start swimming with school? How did they find it?
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