Care To Skinny-Dip?

Fig Leaf With TextWhen I asked Neil, the swimming teacher whom I work with, what he thought of skinny-dipping, his quick response was, “Why are you thinking about doing it?”  To which I replied, with a look of horror on my face, “God no, I’ve had three kids!”  He found this hilarious and roared with laughter; he also wanted to know why I asked.  You see, Neil is also a full time policeman and coupled with being a part time swimming teacher, I thought it was an interesting mix to what happened in July.

At the end of last month, two young men were caught skinny dipping off the coast of Belfast Lough, County Down in Northern Ireland and were threatened with a criminal record and being placed on the sex offenders register.  Because of this, there has been an outcry from naturist campaigners who have deemed it “absolutely monstrous” that the case has been handed to the public prosecutor’s office by the police.  Admittedly, I do feel sorry for them.  It was a very hot summer’s day, they were in desperate need to cool down, but obviously didn’t have any swim wear with them and being young adults, probably didn’t think about the potential repercussions.


Their big mistake was to go skinny-dipping in a public place, where families with young children were also present.  If it had been in more of a secluded area, away from the public eye, the police would have been more likely to laugh it off and let the dippers get on with it.  Even though, according to the spokesman for British Naturism, Andrew Welch, “The law is very clear that being naked in public is not a crime.  It has to be proved by a complainant that the nude person intended to cause somebody alarm or distress.”  Unfortunately, the U.K. has a reputation for being conservative and prudish and we are certainly not comfortable with showing our naked bodies to our own children at home, let alone to complete strangers in public.  Could the underlying cause be that we see our nude bodies as sexual objects rather than how Mother Nature intended?  After all, we are the only species on Earth who wear clothes and get upset when we see mothers breastfeeding in public.  Children are not born with these ideas and seeing naked bodies and being naked is perfectly natural to them.  The idea that being naked is somehow wrong is learnt as children integrate more into society and pickup on the thoughts and beliefs of the people closest to them.



Skinny-dipping can be liberating (so I’ve been told) and if done discreetly should not in any way be classed as a criminal act.  If you want to do it in a controlled environment, without the risk of getting caught, visit the British Naturism website at activities/places_database.php/_/swims/ or if you prefer a less populated environment, do your research before you go and make sure you swim safely.  Oh and just a few little things to remember – taking photos of your swimming partners is a definite no-no (forget posting on Facebook or any other social media) and so is ogling too.  It is probably best to strip quickly down to your underwear and then remove these items once you’ve entered the water with a celebratory whoop and fling back items of clothing to the shore.  Please don’t think it’s funny to steal other peoples’ clotheswhilst they are bathing, certain parts of the body tend to shrivel when cold and that is not a pleasant sight!

Why Is The National Curriculum Failing At Swimming?

School swimming lessons are a hot potato topic in the playground and generally are looked upon with suspicion; they are also part of the national curriculum set out by the government.

The National Curriculum states: "All schools must provide swimming instruction either in Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2.  In particular, pupils should be taught to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres, use a range of strokes effectively such as front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke and perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations."

The National Curriculum states: "All schools must provide swimming instruction either in Key Stage 1 or Key Stage 2.  In particular, pupils should be taught to swim competently, confidently and proficiently over a distance of at least 25 metres, use a range of strokes effectively such as front crawl, backstroke and breaststroke and perform safe self-rescue in different water-based situations."

Even so 51 % of all children still leave primary school education unable to swim and thus are unsafe in water.

So why is this the case?  Unless parents are part of the swimming world, parents are less likely to understand the reasoning behind the need of swimming lessons.  Drowning is the third highest cause of unintentional death worldwide and that is the crux of the reasoning.  Swimming is the ONLY sport that is also a lifesaving skill and if more people understood that, the drowning mortality rate would go down significantly.


Parents don’t also understand the reasons why certain rules are in place for school swimming lessons.  So let’s take a minute to explain some of them:

No goggles – if your child ever fell into a body of water, would they be wearing goggles?  The likely hood is no.  I have heard of a very good club swimmer going to pieces on school swimming lessons, simply because she didn’t have goggles, so much so, she reverted back to being a complete beginner and wasn’t safe in the water.  If your child is suffering from chlorine irritation to the eyes, tell them NOT to rub them.  This will actually rub the chlorine into the eye and make the situation worse.  Instead, blink the eyes and if that doesn’t work, the eyes need to be washed out with warm water from a tap, for as long as possible.

Swimming hats – Yes I do agree that you are very unlikely to be wearing a swimming hat if you fell into water and they can be horrendous to put on, especially the thin latex ones.  I personally like the thick latex hats, as they are more durable and they can be fun too (try!online-shop/c1cni for ideas).  Swim hats do have lots of pluses though.  They help keep the water hygienic (no loose hair floating around) and all hair is kept securely in place without getting in the eyes (trust me, hair in the eyes is definitely going to bring your child’s swimming ability down).  Hats (if put on properly) will keep the hair dry and your child warmer (the head is where most body heat escapes), which is a bonus during winter months!

No bikinis or tankinis – These sexualise a child into something they are not.  One pieces are far easier to put on and less likely to come undone.  A swimming teacher cannot be expected to help redress your child as this can put both parties in an awkward position.  So please, make sure your child can dress themselves without help.

No baggy shorts – They actually help a boy float, which is defeating the object of solely relying on your own body for floatation.

Schools’ budgets are increasingly getting tighter and so more and more parents are being asked to help subsidise the swimming lessons.  It is important to remember this is optional and no one should feel pressurised to pay for what is a requirement of the national curriculum.


Why are school lessons sporadic?  The school timetable is required to have everything but the kitchen sink fitted in and it simply isn’t possible.  So those subjects (swimming) that aren’t deemed as top priority get pushed to the bottom.  The primary school that all my children have attended has the best swim programme I have come across.  All children start swimming lessons in year 2 and have a whole spring term of 45 minutes per week (most schools only offer 30 minutes).  Unfortunately (and this is where the system falls down), the children then have to wait until the summer term of year 3 until they can resume the lessons.  This frankly is too a long a wait and even though it is a nice idea to have lessons in year 2, I think potentially for some children it might as well be written off.  The reason behind the long break is because the year 4s have the autumn term to continue what they learnt as year 3s without too much of a break.

The general consensus that I am receiving from swimming teachers is that school swimming lessons on the whole aren’t working – you only have to look at the statistics.  So what can be done to improve?  Firstly, school swimming lessons are far too generalized, they don’t stretch the most capable of swimmers and too many non-swimmers are staying non-swimmers.  I would suggest (if pool space allows) that multiple years are taken at once continuously throughout the school year, each child is properly assessed against a tick sheet ranging from very basic skills (i.e. putting face into the water) to performing tumble turns and 

individual medleys, as well as lifesaving skills.  Then the children are split into ability based groups with no more than ten in each group.  If there are more than ten children with the same level swimming ability then there should be more than one group to cater.  Even within one group, there are going to be children who are better than others; this needs to be dealt with too.  Harder drills can be given to the more capable or more technical feedback talked through.  Try and look at the group as individuals and teach with that aim in mind.  Give homework!  Thirty to forty-five minutes isn’t sufficient once a week, if you were learning to play the piano, you would be expected to go home and practice; so why shouldn’t swimming be any different?  There are plenty of dry side drills that can be performed or activities at bath time are ideal.


Children either hate or love swimming lessons.  Children who hate swimming lessons in particular need to understand 100 % why they are needed.  There are children who will refuse or try and get out of doing lessons or particular activities, this needs to be addressed firmly and made clear that not taking part isn’t going to be the answer.  Activities need to be made clear and why they are being undertaken.  Speaking to my niece about her school swimming lessons, she said she can remember doing lots of treading water out of depth and she didn’t like it as she couldn’t put her feet down, this should have been explained.  If kids have reason, surely they are more likely to take part and understand?  

Swimming certificates should be universal throughout the whole of the United Kingdom; at the moment this isn’t the case.  There is also too huge a jump between some of the grades I have been told about, for example, swimming twenty five metres and treading water for thirty seconds after only just achieving ten metres swimming.  It should be a very gradual progression.

National Curriculum Requirements For SwimmingTeachers should be happy enthusiastic teachers.  This will only come about if they have a good working environment with facilities and colleagues they can rely on, with good rates of pay for teaching and undertaking paperwork and staff meetings.  Happy teachers=happier pupils.

Finally, (even though I would hate having to go through this) maybe it’s about time swimming teachers who work with schools should be assessed by Ofsted?  After all, what is more important than saving a life?