Reality PE: pupils learn to swim in their clothes

Clyde School year 5 and 6 pupils learn how to swim with the current at the Molyneux Aquatic...
Clyde School year 5 and 6 pupils learn how to swim with the current at the Molyneux Aquatic Centre as part of the Swim Skills river safe programme. Photo by Lynda Van Kempen.
Central Otago primary school pupils are splashing into their nearest swimming pool for lessons wearing a full set of clothing, including footwear.

As part of a pilot water safety programme, which could be extended, senior pupils are learning about river safety.

Their introduction to the course involves several sessions in the pool, where they wear everyday clothes - sweatshirts, jeans or trackpants and footwear.

"They get used to how it feels to be in the water in their clothes so they don't panic in that situation.

"Ninety percent of the people who fall into water are in their clothes," swim instructor Haley Wasson, of Queenstown, said.

Ms Wasson is one of the staff carrying out the programme.

Central Lakes Trust has funded the pilot Swim Skills programme, spending $15,000 so far, and the scheme will be evaluated at the end of this year to see if it should continue.

The programme is a partnership between the trust, schools and the Central Otago District Council.

The idea was mooted by trust chief executive Paul Allison, who said the aim was to improve the water confidence and water-safety skills of children throughout the district.

"We live in a region where we all have close access to water, whether it's rivers, lakes or streams.

"Teaching our children to be confident around water is part of the life skills they should learn."

The river safety portion of the programme gave pupils skills to keep themselves safe in and around rivers and a chance to learn and practise survival swimming, Mr Allison said.

"Children are exposed to water in all sorts of ways, whether it be on a boat, fishing, hiking, kayaking or tramping, and this teaches them what to do in that situation."

The trust pays the wages of the instructors, the council covers the cost of using the pools and the schools arrange for the pupils to be transported to the pool.

Teachers also deliver the land-based part of the water-safety programme.

Six or seven schools have been involved in the pilot programme.

Younger primary pupils learn basic swimming skills and older ones learn about river safety.

Central Otago District Council aquatic centres manager Gary Easthope hoped funding would be extended for a three-year-term.

The Cromwell and Alexandra pools had been used and instructors had also introduced the programme at Roxburgh at the start of this year.

Feedback about the programme was positive and Mr Easthope said it was an asset to the district.

Mr Allison said Swim Skills complemented the tuition given through existing swimming schools and aquatic centres.

"This doesn't compete with them.

"In fact, the wider the base of children who are confident around the water, the more likely they are to take that further by taking lessons through swim schools or joining swimming clubs."

The trust was keen to see the evaluation of the pilot programme, he said.

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