Swimming is in need of a publicity boost and there are two big reasons why. Number one, there is a distinct lack of suitably qualified swimming teachers and swim schools up and down the United Kingdom are struggling with recruitment. The second reason is that swimming, according to recent media reports (the BBC and the Telegraph) whilst the most popular hobby for girls and over half of all children go swimming as a hobby, football is still the number one past time for boys. Apparently, swimming, on average, costs £94 per year per child. However, I question these statistics, as one in three children leave primary school education unable to swim and personally, my husband and I easily spend more than £94 per year on swimming lessons and I know that others do as well. Those of you who follow my blog on a regular basis don’t need to be told how important swimming is as a life skill, but there seems to be many people out there who do not realise how important it is. In the first part of a two part blog, I look at the possible reasons why there is a distinct shortage of swimming teachers.
IS SWIMMING TEACHING SEEN AS A PROPER PROFESSION?
So why is there a shortage of swimming teachers? There are a number of reasons whether singular or multiple. Before I had my daughter, the thought of becoming a swimming teacher would not have even entered my head. Yes of course I had swimming lessons as a child and these had been a mix between instructors who were being paid by the local leisure centre and then as I got older, I joined the local swimming club, which was made up of volunteers, but as a child, you don’t tend to realise all what is going on! It wasn’t until I joined mother and baby classes and the teacher (now my boss) realised that I could swim, was it suggested that I take my STA level one. I knew that eventually that I would have to go back to work and I wouldn’t be going back to what I went to college for (a sound engineer / roadie).
I didn’t realise that becoming a swimming teacher could be a profession and maybe that is where the problem lies. I have heard of stories where primary schools use their own staff without anybody with trained experience present, this in itself is dangerous. There could be the old school attitude as well, where the child is thrown into the water and made to swim regardless of whether the child is ready or not. Having met one of these types, when I said I was a swimming teacher, I got the distinct impression that he thought it wasn’t a worthwhile occupation. Swimming teachers are properly trained and many come from a lifeguard
background and if not, hold some certification in water safety. We are required to update qualifications on a regular basis and many of us have to fund these courses ourselves; which can be extremely expensive and can involve long distance travel. We do not get paid the minimum wage, however it does depend whether you are working for a private company or leisure centre and where you live in the country. I get the impression that job recruitment or training to become a swimming teacher is kept very in-house, maybe if the profession is advertised more widely and made more available to the general public; this might help the situation.
FAMILIES HAVE TO COME FIRST
If you have children of your own, the hours can be difficult as a lot of time it is teaching outside of school hours and during school holidays. Childcare costs would soon wipe out the hourly rate paid and so it would be pointless in working. Even though the majority of swimming teachers love their job, families and bringing home a sensible wage has to come first. For many, the hours on offer are simply not enough; it could be just four hours a week and it is very rare to find a swimming teacher who works full time. Swimming teaching is quite commonly a secondary job and probably done more for enjoyment than a necessary wage. A lot of younger teachers are also studying for a degree and use the job to fund them through their course and then when they have graduated, they leave the profession.
Teaching on poolside isn’t the easiest of career choices. Alternating between working on poolside and in the pool is extremely harsh and is a common factor for giving up teaching. Chlorine dries the skin and hair out, can cause allergies and headaches if the pool isn’t well ventilated. Going from dry to wet and then standing round in wet clothes on poolside also lowers the immune system, making the swimming teacher more prone to illnesses, especially if the pool hasn’t got the right amount cleaning products, which in turn can make it a germ pit; especially with heavy usage.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any easy answers to these problems, you can’t take children out of school to participate in leisure activities and the nature of the job, means that at some point, you will have to get wet. However, maybe the STA and the ASA could look at how the courses are run and maybe the costings involved, so that it is more financially appealing to the individual teacher. Health wise, speak to the people who are in charge of keeping the pool functioning well, they should be able to see if there is a problem and hopefully make changes.