Deakin study finds school swimming programs alone not enough to keep kids safe

Media release
03 October 2019

Most children who only learn to swim by attending intensive school swimming programs can't swim a year later, placing children at greater risk of drowning, Deakin researchers have found.

The same study found parents who relied on school swimming alone appeared to overestimate their child's swimming and water safety ability, which researchers found concerning.

Kate Moncrieff and Jacqui Peters, lecturers within Deakin University's School of Education, found children need weekly swimming instruction in addition to the five 45-minute sessions offered in most intensive school swimming programs, to maintain their swimming and water safety skills.

Primary school aged children who had established foundational swimming skills - such as gliding, kicking front and back and corresponding arm actions - and then only attended school intensive swimming programs without an additional weekly swimming program for the remainder of the year, tended to plateau or even lose the skills they had gained.

The best outcomes came from those who did a combination of weekly and intensive swimming lessons.

The world-first research 'Swim Lesson Models: Effectiveness and Impact Study' is the culmination of a year-long research project in partnership with Peninsula Leisure.

The findings have prompted the Deakin researchers to call for a review of school swimming programs to include the viability of expanding swimming programs beyond the current once yearly intensive school programs. This was shown to be extremely important for beginner and early skill stage swimmers.

"While intensive school swimming programs were important and effective, they lost their effectiveness as a stand-alone, and children needed to attend more frequent swimming lessons and practice in order to be able to swim to safe levels," Ms Moncrieff said.

"We found that regular weekly swimming provided positive skill learning outcomes across all levels.

"In contrast to the school swimming intensives, the greatest impact of weekly swimming was experienced by early learners."

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