Peninsula Leisure and Deakin University have conducted a world-first study into the learning and retention of swim and safety skills and found that undertaking an intensive school swim program alone is not enough to keep Australian children safe.
The year-long study – Swim Lesson Models: Effectiveness and Impact Study – found parents who solely relied on school swim programs overestimated their child’s swimming and water safety abilities.
Furthermore, parents placed more emphasis on their child being safe around water, rather than developing technical swimming skills – both of which are vital for the overall safety of the child.
While swimming is a crucial skill to learn in Australian culture, 36.7 per cent of parents whose children participated in the study only intended to persist with lessons if their child expressed interest to continue.
Peninsula Leisure CEO Tim Gledhill says this study reinforces just how important it is for parents to ensure children are learning to swim all year round.
“While intensive school swim programs are important, they lose their effectiveness as a stand-alone, and the study found children needed to attend more frequent swimming lessons to be able to retain essential swim and safety skills.
“Eighty-five per cent of Australians live within 50km of the coast. This study is a timely reminder on the importance of learning to swim and maintaining regular practice to ensure our children remain safe. It also highlights the need to redesign the way we deliver learn-to-swim programs,” Gledhill says.
The study found a combination of intensive school swim programs, in conjunction with regular lessons to be the most effective mode for swim skill retention. However, it also found the retention of skills learned in intensive school programs was level-dependent.
Kate Moncrieff and Jacqui Peters, lecturers within Deakin University’s School of Education, found that while school swimming intensives resulted in an improvement of swimming and water safety skills, children in the earlier stages of learning tended to lose the skills they had gained when retested again at the end of the school year.
“Extending the accessibility to swimming lessons beyond intensive school swim programs is important to ensure all children, no matter what level, are retaining these vital skills.
“The findings have prompted us to call for a review of the State’s school swim programs to ensure they meet the development needs of Victorian children,” says Moncrieff.