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Royal Life Saving concerned over significant fall in swimming lesson enrolments

Royal Life Saving concerned over significant fall in swimming lesson enrolments
October 6, 2020

Royal Life Saving and the Aquatic Recreation and Swim School industry have released new data showing a significant 25% fall in swimming lesson enrolments, with the greatest impact shown in metropolitan areas and among children aged seven to 12 years with a fall of 40% in some areas.

Royal Life Saving analysed swim school enrolments provided by partners YMCA, Belgravia Leisure, BlueFit Group, Aquatic Recreation Institute – NSW and the Australian Swimming Coaches and Teachers Association (ASCTA).

Children’s swimming and water safety skills are critical to drowning prevention and a lifelong love of water. Australia’s reputation in this area is world leading, as are our aquatic centres and swim schools.

Royal Life Saving is urging parents to assess their children’s swimming skills. If they can’t reach the National Swimming and Water Safety Benchmarks for their age, they should enrol them in lessons prior to summer.

Royal Life Saving Chief Executive, Justin Scarr notes “the fall in swimming lesson enrolments is so dramatic that Royal Life Saving is concerned that COVID-19 may create a generation of non-swimmers, who will never be safe around water. Parents should be reminded that learning to swim is not only a partial vaccine against drowning, it boosts a lifelong love of swimming for fun, health and fitness.”

The research released by Royal Life Saving and the Aquatic Recreation and Swim School industry shows that September 2020 enrolments (compared with September 2019) have:

  • Fallen by 25% on average across Australia (excluding Victoria)
  • Fallen by 8% in children 0 to 3 years and 22% in children 4 to 6 years
  • Fallen by 29% in children 7 to 9 years, and 41% in children 10 to 12 years
  • Impacts are greater in metropolitan areas, compared with regional areas
  • The biggest decrease in enrolments recorded are in metropolitan Sydney (41%)
  • The data excludes Victoria as most pools have been closed throughout September

The sharpest decline in enrolments is in school aged children, which have fallen between 29% to 41%. Royal Life Saving believes that this age is exactly the wrong time to be quitting lessons.

Research shows that cost, distance, parental awareness, and negative experiences are all barriers to swimming lessons. COVID-19 has placed financial pressures on families and raised safety concerns.

ASCTA Chief Executive, Brendon Ward advises “swim schools have been profoundly impacted by closures through winter; they now have comprehensive COVID-19 plans in place to do everything possible to ensure the safety and wellbeing of their community. Professional swimming lessons provide essential skills that last a lifetime and enable people to enjoy the water safely.”

Melinda Crole, Chief Executive YMCA Australia, which runs aquatic facilities and swim schools across Australia, notes that “the social and mental health benefits of a swim at the local swimming pool is often overlooked. Aquatic centres provide a safe, social place to exercise, practise vital swimming skills, relax and feel a sense of connection to community. All these things are vital during a COVID impacted summer.”

Scarr suggests that “if a 7, 8 or 9-year-old child can’t yet swim 50 metres and tread water for two minutes then they should be in swimming and water safety lessons. Cost can be a barrier, and we encourage parents to investigate State Government sport vouchers, planning ahead to enrol in the subsidised holiday programs and asking grandparents to gift lessons for birthdays or Christmas.”

The National Swimming and Water Safety Benchmarks for children aged 6 and 12 years are:

  • Every Australian at the age of 6 years should be able to swim continuously for at least five metres, submerge, move through an obstacle, and identify people and actions to help in an emergency;
  • Every Australian at the age of 12 years should be able to at least swim continuously for 50 metres and tread water for two minutes, and rescue a person using a non-swimming rescue technique with non-rigid aids and perform a survival sequence wearing clothing.

The National Swimming and Water Safety Framework, including the benchmarks, can be found here

Image courtesy of YMCA.

Related Articles

13th September 2020 - Royal Life Saving survey suggests that swim school enrolments fell by 30% in August

25th August 2020 - Royal Life Saving introduces new conflict management course for the aquatic industry

12th November 2019 - Swimming Australia and Belgravia Leisure partner to deliver activity and experience-based swim school teaching

18th March 2020 - Royal Life Saving releases position statement on the impact of Coronavirus on aquatic facilites

23rd September 2020 - Paul Sadler Swimland concerned that limited access to swimming lessons increases drowning risks for children

21st September 2020 - Christchurch City Council encourages children’s swimming lessons ahead of summer

2nd September 2020 - Yamanto Central excited to have Rackley Swimming join their new Ipswich centre

19th August 2020 - Swimming Australia highlights role swimming can play in nation’s Coronavirus recovery

11th August 2020 - Royal Life Saving publishes new National Swimming and Water Safety Framework for learn to swim programs

11th August 2020 - Swim Logan project looks to provide life-saving swimming lessons

30th July 2020 - Carlile Swimming Water Safety Advocate highlights value of swimming lessons and new Pro-Visual Publishing guide

11th June 2020 - Wellington City Council to offer free off-peak swimming in reopened aquatic facilities

5th June 2020 - Approval of Industry Plan sets path for reopening of Queensland’s swimming pools and aquatic centres

20th May 2020 - Royal Life Saving fears AIS reboot Framework fails to account for swimming and water safety programs

19th March 2020 - Government issues Coronavirus guidelines for community sport, stating fitness centres and swimming pools need not close

24th February 2020 - Life Saving Victoria launches updated online School Swimming and Water Safety Toolkit

3rd February 2020 - Victoria sees boom in swimming certificate numbers

30th November 2019 - Royal Life Saving Tasmania delivers tailored swimming and water safety lessons for high-risk students

1st May 2020 - Royal Life Saving makes the case for the reopening of Australia’s aquatic centres and swim schools

27th February 2020 - Royal Life Saving helps new migrants with learn to swim and water safety program

19th December 2019 - Royal Life Saving WA partners with LIWA Aquatics to stress water safety vigilance over summer holidays

26th February 2020 - Belgravia Kids Chief Executive explains the acquisition of Jump! Swim Schools business


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