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SwimSafe Week research reveals most Aussie kids are not learning to swim

November 17th, 2021

Swim industry experts are concerned about an increase in drownings this summer as new research revealed 54 per cent of children are not learning to swim.

This figures consists of 27 per cent forced out of lessons due to covid restrictions and 28 per cent unable to find class availability at their local swim school.

While swim schools are opening up around the country with the easing of restrictions, the issue of availability is likely to remain for the near future as classes fill up and staff who left during the lockdowns are needing to be replaced.

The report, commissioned by Swim Australia as part of the annual SwimSafer Week (November 15 to November 19), found only 37 per cent of parents planned to enrol their children in official lessons within the next six months, with 29 per cent planning to teach their children themselves.

Swim Australia CEO Brendon Ward says the circumstances of the past two years would have a long-term effect on the swimming ability of children in Australia.

“Covid has impacted the swimming industry immensely with lessons halted for long periods and swimming teachers leaving the industry because of shutdowns, resulting in swim schools unable to meet demand,” he says.

“Our study shows 16 per cent of children have not attended swimming lessons for over a year and another 25 per cent have been out of the pool between six and 12 months. This is a very dangerous scenario as it means children’s abilities in the water will have regressed. There will be children who may never learn how to swim properly.”

Ward says there was a 20 per cent increase in total drownings after the first lockdown.

“The situation is very serious, and we shudder to think what might happen this summer given so many children have not been learning to swim. Parents confirm our fears with 51 per cent per cent not confident their child could help themselves in a water emergency.”

Swimming might be our most popular sport, but it may also be in jeopardy with 44 per cent of Australians acknowledging interruptions to swimming lessons over the past two years will impact future professional and Olympic swimming success.

Helping out

The Swim It Forward initiative aims to reduce the barriers for parents by generating funds to help families afford swimming lessons next year.

“By donating one swimming lesson or just $20, people can potentially save a life by helping a child get back in the water and find their confidence.”

To encourage children’s love of the water and promote the value of swimming lessons, Hasbro, a global play and entertainment company, is collaborating with Swim Australia to support SwimSafer week with a campaign featuring the heroes from the popular pre-school brand PJ Masks. The campaign aims to inspire young children and parents on the importance of swim safety along with heroes Catboy, Owlette and Gekko as they help children “power up” their swimming.

The campaign includes creating co-branded content with campaign ambassadors: Olympic gold medallist Leisel Jones, Olympian Alex Graham and Paralympian Brenden Hall.

“It’s very exciting to be able to share the message with young children that we’ve all got the power to be a hero,” says Jones.

“Learning to swim is really close to my heart and something I am really passionate about because I know first-hand the impact of drowning on a family, because a close family member drowned when they were young. It’s extremely sad but I know I am not alone, as the SwimSafer Report showed close to a third (32.1 per cent) of families also had a family member who had a bad experience with water.

“This just proves to me even more why learning to swim is a lifesaving skill every child requires! You might put your child into ballet or soccer, but those skills will never save your life. You can’t twirl yourself out the water if you get into trouble. It is so crucial, it’s a non-negotiable in my book.”

There are more than 500 swim schools celebrating SwimSafer Week across Australia with a range of events. People can find their closest participating swim school at www.swimsafer.org.au. Parents unable to attend a swimming school due to covid lockdowns or limitations can access great water safety tools for children also on the website.

People can share the gift of a swimming lesson for Swim It Forward initiative by donating at www.swimsafer.org.au.

By Chris Maher
SPLASH! Magazine
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