school swimming lessons preparations - Bubbablue and me

School swimming lessons – how to prep your children

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 swimming lessons preparations - Bubbablue and me

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.

swimming class

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

*Contains affiliate links

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?

Why not take a look at these similar posts.

help kids love the water
swim caps
baby to toddler swimming
Love it? Share it


  1. I think it’s important to get them in the water from an early age so they’re not frightened but I also think it’s important for them to go at their own pace, as with all learning. These are some handy tips. #sharingthebloglove

  2. I took Toby to baby swimming lessons but we stopped when he was one and I went back to work. He just started lessons at our local YMCA pool in the summer and he’s doing great so far. I’m not sure when the school take them but I think it will be good if he can already swim by then. Some great tips here though for when the time comes. I just need to get Gabe in the pool a bit more too now! #SharingTheBlogLove

    1. Harder to get swimming when there’s 2 children as so many pools have restrictions. Getting N to swim by the time he started going with school was our aim too. After 6 years of lessons, you’d have thought he’d be well on the way by then!

  3. Great advice. Both my girls have been swimming since they were 13 weeks old and have lessons every week. Alice will start swimming lessons in the summer term of year 2 and will continue then. I think it will be good for her to do it with the school, I remember having school swimming lessons and loved it.Thank you for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. Similar starting time to N. I just think it’s an essential skill, and have been amazed over the last couple of years to hear how many adults can’t swim let alone kids! I hated my school swimming – I wasn’t a great swimmer, but love the relaxation of it now (although only tend to go in summer for the outdoor pool with work colleagues)

  4. I have to admit that although I loved swimming, I hated school swimming lessons! The swimming caps and long hair don’t mix, and the communal changing rooms were horrible! I hope I can prepare Max for the experience, and fingers crossed he’ll enjoy it (although I can already sense the oncoming battle about swimming caps!) Thanks for joining us at #SharingtheBlogLove

    1. I was never a swimming fan either. I didn’t manage it properly learning until age 8. I love it now – although only really go to the outdoor pool in summer. Bliss.

      When it gets to hats, I thought it would be a nightmare but N wasn’t worried, and when they see everyone else wearing them, they mind less. Definitely look for either silicon ones which have better stretch and don’t stick together, or you can get fabric ones with pictures all over. They don’t hurt putting them on – much better for kids

  5. These are some great tips. I know I don’t take my kids swimming as much as I should and I don’t think the schools here take them until year 3. Every year I plan to go more but forget. I have tried to sign them up to lessons but there is such a high demand they fill up quickly.

    1. We’re lucky that villages near us have private schools with pools, so not everyone has to try and beat the waiting list for the pool in town (I even wrote a post a while back about booking swimming lessons nightmares!). It’s hard to get round to taking them outside of lessons – I always say I will over the holidays, then we might go once. Unless you go for a 2 week summer holiday with a pool, it’s definitely not easy unless they get into lessons.

Comments are closed.