Dry Side Swimming Teaching?!

Bobber, the water safety dog, makes a new friend
Bobber, the water safety dog, makes a new friend

Hot sunny days and the summer holidays will soon be upon us and the temptation to go swimming will become more popular. It sounds lovely, but during the hot weather, accidental drowning increases due to the fact that people take ill-judged decisions on where to swim and is the third highest cause of death in children under the age of fourteen years.


This should be a surprising statistic considering the fact that the National Curriculum requires all primary school children to be able to swim twenty five metres unaided by the time they reach the age of eleven. Unfortunately, due to budget cuts and increasing pressure on school timetables, school swimming lessons are usually only held for one term, which results in a third of children being unsafe in or around water or unable to swim. In the 2013 swimming census undertaken by Kelloggs and the ASA, fifty one per cent (or 1.1 million) of seven to eleven year olds (Key Stage Two) cannot swim twenty five metres unaided. Forty per cent of children who cannot swim have not even been offered the opportunity of learning to swim. These statistics are a sad reflection of how the British education system is failing our children in teaching such a vitally important life skill and not helping to stem the tide of more than four hundred people drowning each year in the UK alone.

Ideally, all children should be made to learn to swim, but realistically this clearly isn’t happening. The problem needs to be turned on its head and looked at from a different angel. If pool time cannot be provided, water safety will have to be taught dry side. This initially might be a strange idea, but water does bring fear to a lot of children and to have the opportunity to learn about water in a safe, warm environment where they can learn without fear is definitely a plus.

Learning to surf at Noosa


Some people might think that dry side teaching might not be the way forward. However there are positives to teaching dry side and it certainly has been proven to be a reliable teaching method. Children love playing games and singing. So games teaching body position for floating and performing a log roll can be taught in a warm dry environment using colourful soft toy characters without the fear of water. The same characters can be incorporated into stories, colouring sheets and even videos to aid teaching. Two simple case studies to prove that dry side teaching is effective:

  1. Breast stroke legs can be difficult to teach in the water and occasionally it is easier to manipulate the swimmer’s legs around a hula hoop whilst sitting on the floor. This practice can be used as homework for five minutes a day to help encourage muscle memory.
  1. Beginner surfers are taught to stand up on a surfboard on the beach, before even attempting to go into the sea. The reason for this is that it is easier to learn to stand up on a stable surface (the beach) without having to contend with the swell of the sea.

Once the children are familiar with their teachers and what is expected of them in the water, hopefully this will dispel some of their fear about actually learning in the water. Even if the children are not offered the opportunity to partake in water based lessons to complement the dry side teaching, they will be more water wise and less vulnerable when it comes to rescue and personal survival skills.

When Your Own Child’s Problems Bring Conflict Into Work

Stop Bullying!Recently I got a very confusing email from my boss that I genuinely thought had been caught in a technical glitch from my daughter’s school and had become intermingled.  It was in regards to a trial swim that had been booked with my classes on a Saturday morning.  Usually not a problem, but the child in question had been making my daughter’s life hell at school and also in the village where we live.  Fortunately the mother of the child in question, as soon as my name was mentioned, did say that there was a problem between the two, but decided not to mention anything to her daughter until she turned up on poolside.  I was asked in the email, not to mention the trial session to my daughter, as naturally, anything to do with work is confidential.  However, if I didn’t feel comfortable with the situation, it wouldn’t be a problem.


To say that my head was in a spin would be an understatement.  As a swimming teacher, I love a challenge and to watch anyone progress from a non-swimmer to doing a stroke beautifully gives me great pleasure and the challenge in this instance would be able to show that I can keep my private life separate from my personal one and (metaphorically) stick two fingers up at the child and parent in the process.  But (and this is a huge but), India is my child and whilst not perfect, if she has been wronged, I would put her needs above all else.  The health club where I work is very family orientated and thinking it through, I came to the conclusion that Daisy (not her real name) had the right to be taught to swim, but Saturday lessons were not the ideal time as all three of my children would be on the premises either participating in swimming lessons (either side of Daisy’s lesson) or gym circuits (India) and siblings being siblings, would soon tell each other anything of importance.  Any other time, I might be able to get away without mentioning it at home.

As a parent, I told my boss that India would find out as she would be there and I couldn’t expect her brothers to keep their mouths shut once they found out.  I said that she would probably throw a screaming tantrum and not at all be happy about the situation (India doesn’t let subjects drop, so it wouldn’t be a just one off tantrum).  Luckily, India seems to be happy at school at present and academically is exceeding all our expectations, but her weekends (other than homework) are school problem free and should stay that way.  Should I really make her keep going to her class, if there was someone there that she really didn’t like? I said that I would have discuss it with my husband and my boss was happy with that.  Now my husband, by nature, is so laid back, he is almost horizontal, but even James was concerned about the potential problematic mix of work verses private life.



The other concern that I had was what could potentially be said at school and the village.  It doesn’t matter how good or bad I am as a teacher, as a human I make mistakes.  Would these be picked up and discussed behind my back?  What would happen if I had disciplined Daisy and she and her mother wasn’t happy with the way I dealt with it?  Would it make India’s school life hard again?  How would Daisy behave in class?  She knows that I don’t like her and she is also at the age where hormones are taking a grip, would the two be a combustible mix?  Daisy would also be the oldest (by about five years) in the class, would she do anything (i.e. swearing) that could potentially upset the other class members and their parents?

Anyway after spending a morning flapping around on the phone and Facebook asking other people their opinions, I got a phone call from my boss to say that the trial lesson had been cancelled.  Daisy had been told whom her teacher was and didn’t want to come.  Problem solved.  Thing is, I feel frustrated now, as it’s another child who can barely swim and is that right?