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.
SCHOOL SWIMMING IS FAILING
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.
TEACHING FROM ANOTHER ANGLE
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:
- 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.
- 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.