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Royal Life Saving calls for mandatory swimming lessons in new national curriculum

Royal Life Saving calls for mandatory swimming lessons in new national curriculum
November 25, 2011

The Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA) says it is a national disgrace that 50,000 children will leave primary school this summer unable to swim, making them highly vulnerable to drowning calling on Governments to ensure swimming becomes a mandatory component of the new national curriculum.

With the same number of children having left primary school without these skills each year for the past 10 years, and with no effective system in secondary schools to fix the problem, Royal Life Saving believe that it is "highly likely that 500,000 young Australians are currently at an extreme risk of drowning."

Speaking at the launch of the 2011 Swim and Survive program, RLSSA Chief Executive, Rob Bradley, stated that "this is a potentially catastrophic community issue that governments, parents and industry groups can no longer ignore.

"The protection of children's lives has to be the highest of priorities."

Royal Life Saving warns that a drowning crisis is now looming because of the staggering number of children who leave primary school every year unable to swim the length of an Olympic pool or keep themselves afloat for two minutes.

Figures from RLSSA show at least 50,000 children will finish primary school this summer without the ability to swim the length of an Olympic pool or keep themselves afloat for two minutes – the national benchmark.

Bradley says the figures are absolutely shameful and are a national disgrace, adding "every child deserves a swimming and water safety education and urgent measures are needed to fix this issue. Being able to swim and enjoy the water safely is a fundamental right of every Australian child."

Royal Life Saving says while State and Territory Governments are active in the area, there needs to be a consistent response that includes commitment from parents and industry groups to fix the growing problem which it says is set to become a huge national issue.

RLSSA is calling on the Federal Government and State Governments to ensure swimming and water safety becomes a mandatory component of the new national curriculum, a concept that Federal Minister for Sport Mark Arbib and the State and Territory Sport and Recreation Ministers Council apparently supported earlier this year.

Bradley adds "swimming and water safety skills and knowledge must be part of every child's education so that they can safely enjoy the many aquatic locations and activities that life in Australia has to offer."

Royal Life Saving research shows that children are most likely to miss out if they come from lower socio-economic and disadvantaged areas, Indigenous communities, some multi-cultural backgrounds or if they live in rural and remote locations.

The Society also urges all parents to act and ensure their children are enrolled in a program that will give them swimming skills so they can both swim and survive.

Research shows that while more children aged five to 14 are participating in the sport of swimming than ever before, sadly – at the same time – a much higher number of children are getting absolutely no lessons at all.

Bradley warns that there are numerous barriers preventing kids from receiving lessons including the costs of the actual lessons, the costs of buses, availability of pools, competition from other sports and complacency.

RLSSA has established the Swim and Survive Fund to ensure that no child misses out. Already over 1,000 children have received a Swim and Survive course free of charge. Funding has benefited children from Indigenous, multicultural, rural and remote, and lower socio economic backgrounds across all states and territories. The aim of the fund is to reach 10,000 children by the end of 2012.

Bradley explains that "the Swim and Survive Fund aims to raised funds to provide 10,000 free Swim and Survive courses by the end of 2012. (Our partner) Uncle Tobys has made an enormous contribution to this. We'd like to see a return to the days when every child got tested swimming in pyjamas, diving for bricks and practising CPR. Swimming ability and confidence in the water are skills every child needs."

A number of Uncle Tobys ambassadors are supporting the Swim and Survive program including Olympic medallists Eamon Sullivan, Emily Seebohm, Grant Hackett and Cate Campbell.

Uncle Tobys ambassador Eamon Sullivan explains that "this partnership is focused on getting more children to have the valuable swimming and water safety skills they need to stay out of trouble. Swim and Survive is about personal survival and teaching children all kinds of useful water safety skills."

Bradley goes on to state that "we estimate it will cost $40 million to reach every Australian child with an adequate level of swimming education, on top of what is already being spent by parents, government and the industry. More facilities need to be built or upgraded, especially in regional Australia, schools need support and parents need subsidies.

"We want to see more free and subsidised places for financially disadvantaged children. We want to see more places for kids from refugee backgrounds and Indigenous communities, who research shows us, miss out

"State and Territory Governments are aware of this issue. We want to highlight that in the coming years this is going to be a very big problem which is why there has to be a more coordinated approach. We cannot afford to back away from the problem, no child should miss out on learning these life saving skills."

"Part of the issue – without doubt – is that many secondary schools across Australia now simply do not teach swimming or water safety. It's hard to know why this has ended up being the case but obviously 20 years ago it wasn't this way. Schools are under huge pressures now. They are concerned by cost and think that swimming and lifesaving has too great a risk so prefer to send the kids tenpin bowling.

"At an absolute minimum, children should be able to swim for 50 metres, float for two minutes and be able to practise basic rescue techniques before they leave primary school. We are urging all Australians to ensure their kids can swim or are enrolled at the local swim school for lessons before they choose other activities. You just can't assume they will learn these skills at school."

Royal Life Saving asks all parents to carefully assess their own child's swimming abilities, highlighting that a chat with the local swim school will help, saying parents can no longer assume children will learn swimming at school.

Bradley concludes "the aquatic industry is already getting behind our message. For instance, Belgravia Leisure has committed to 1,000 free courses. We have asked Swim and Survive partner pools and local council operated facilities to make an even larger commitment to groups in need.

"The safety of children's lives has to be the highest of priorities."

For more information, visit www.swimandsurvive.com.au

23rd September 2010 - ROYAL LIFE SAVING REPORTS DROWNINGS ON THE RISE

30th June 2010 - EXTENSIVE RECOMMENDATIONS FROM ROCK POOL WATER PARK DROWNING INQUEST

30th April 2010 - PUSH FOR SWIM TEACHING FOR ALL NSW STUDENTS 

28th August 2009 - ROYAL LIFE URGES BACKYARD POOL SAFETY 


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