This was the very question that I came across as I was browsing Mumsnet recently. To be honest, I was quite surprised that the question was even being asked. Until recently, a third of all primary school leavers could not swim 25 metres without the help of an aid, this has now gone up to 40%. Primary schools are required to provide swimming lessons as part of their national curriculum up until the end of Key Stage 2. Which is very good in theory, but schools are finding it increasingly difficult to fit it into an already overstretched timetable and budget; plus swimming lessons are not required to be Ofsted inspected. In regards to my own children’s experience of school swimming lessons, they have been one of the lucky few. Starting in the Spring term of Year 2, for a whole term, they are taken by bus to the local leisure centre for a 45 minute swimming once a week, this is again repeated for Years 3 and 4.
LISTEN TO YOUR CHILD, BUT DON'T GIVE UP!
Even though I regard my children to be one of the lucky few (we live in quite an affluent area), I would still argue that this was still not enough time and this is where private swimming lessons come to the fore. Yes, private swimming lessons can be expensive (I dread to think how much money my husband and I have paid out over the years), but without them, I know for a fact my middle child would not have been swimming by now; because he was absolutely terrified of swimming out of his depth and it was only because I listened to him and his fears and changed to a swimming pool that suited his needs that he began to swim confidently (it took me six years to get him to swim 25 metres and he now swims out of his depth). Private swimming lessons can be tailored to your child’s needs, just speak to the teacher and if not happy, don’t be scared to try something else!
So what are the benefits of swimming lessons? Most importantly, lessons teach children (and adults) to be safe in and around water. They make the student aware of their own capabilities in a safe environment that should be a fun and social one too. Swimming lessons shouldn’t be just about stroke technique (i.e. front crawl, back stroke etc.), they should include treading water, diving, underwater swimming, swimming in various depths and experiences of other swimming based sports such as water polo and syncronisation. Swimming is also a good all round sport for the body, because it exercises every part of you and is weight bearing making it ideal for everyone of every age!
WHAT IF MONEY IS TIGHT?
If you can’t afford swimming lessons, your local swimming club might offer discounts depending on your financial income or you could try teaching your child the basics yourself. If you choose to go down this route, be prepared to realise that teaching your own children is going to make it a whole lot harder as they are yours! I have on occasion tried to teach my own (and I’m a qualified swimming teacher) and they were far more interested in playing or thought they knew better!
TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SWIMMING LESSONS:
Choose a pool where your child is happy to swim. Depth and temperature of water can make a huge difference to nervous children.
What is the personality of the swimming teacher? They should be prepared to listen to the child, but also instill discipline. It’s important to remember that being in water is a very dangerous place to be, so your child needs to do as they are told
Are the lessons interesting? Games can be a major tool for learning, but drills are also used.
Talk to the teacher if you don’t feel your child is progressing. It is impossible to teach everything in 30 minutes, but the teacher should be able to identify one or two things that should help your child improve.
Take your child swimming yourself. If you were learning to play a musical instrument, you would be expected to practice at home. You don’t always need a swimming pool to learn how to swim; sometimes a bath and a full length mirror is just as good!
Teaching takes time and patience and not everyone is a natural swimmer. Use this website (and others such as YouTube, Swimming Teachers Association and the Amateur Swimming Association) to research ideas and lesson plans, ask your child’s P.E. teacher for advice and other parents too.
The key thing to remember is that consistency, patience and time is key!