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Growing inequality means more children at risk in the water
New Zealand children from poorer backgrounds are missing out on developing swimming and water safety skills as schools find it increasingly difficult to ensure that all children get access to pools.
NZEI Te Riu Roa National President Louise Green says swimming is part of the school curriculum but pool access is becoming an equity issue.
Green highlights that in the past decade around 20% of schools that had pools have shut them down because they can’t afford the maintenance and compliance costs.
Green explained “the Ministry of Education does provide some funding towards school pool upkeep but it goes nowhere near the real cost of running a pool and that’s why schools have either closed their swimming pools down or had to go to their communities for funding.
“Obviously this hits poorer communities hardest. Many schools now send children to local community pools but this can also be a prohibitive cost. It places a big strain on schools as they have to work very hard to find sponsorship and other solutions.
In Tauranga, Merivale School Principal Jan Tinetti agrees that lack of affordability is a major barrier for swimming and water safety lessons for many children.
Stating that students at her decile 1 school missed out on swimming and water safety lessons for two years because of the cost, Tinetti comments "until we secured sponsorship through Water Safety NZ and charities, there was no way we could afford the $5 per child per session cost of swimming instruction at the community pool.
"And very few of our students were able to access private swimming lessons."
Tinetti says that through sponsorship students now get two weeks a year of lessons. However, they still have a 2.4 kilometre walk to the pool each way to save the cost of bus fares.
She adds "we concentrate on teaching about water safety because that’s the big risk for our kids.
"They mostly swim in rivers or in the sea.”
Green says the New Zealand Government needs to take this issue seriously because it once again highlights the growing inequality in schooling.
Green concludes "all children should have access to swimming and water safety learning. It’s part of the curriculum and should not be overlooked by policymakers.”
NZEI Te Riu Roa, the New Zealand Educational Institute, represents 50,000 principals, teachers and support staff who work in primary, area and secondary schools as well as early childhood centres, special education and school advisory services.
Image courtesy of Waterco.
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