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Victorian Coroner calls for compulsory primary school swimming lessons

Victorian Coroner calls for compulsory primary school swimming lessons
June 29, 2015

A Victorian Coroner has urged the Victorian Government to make swimming lessons compulsory in primary schools following the drowning death of a nine-year-old boy.

Bailey Patman was found lying face down in the water at Seaford Beach after playing in the shallows with his friends in January 2012.

In a just released finding on the drowning, Coroner Caitlin English recommended swimming lessons be made part of the primary school curriculum.

Coroner English's report stated "whilst there has been a widespread focus on the importance of adult supervision of children around water, a lack of swimming ability among children contributes to an increased risk of drowning."

Victorian Emergency Services Minister Jane Garrett said the Government would consider the Coroner’s recommendation.

Life Saving Victoria Chief Executive Nigel Taylor says the Coroner's recommendation is an important way to address the current lack of swimming and water safety competency of Victorian primary school children.

Taylor explained "Victoria has the lowest reported swimming and water safety competency levels in Australia, with teachers estimating that 60% of students leave primary school unable to swim 50 metres continuously.

"From 2000-2013, we also saw 205 children aged five to 14 in Victoria involved in drowning incidents (including deaths and hospitalisations).

"Drowning is highly preventable. Knowledge of survival swimming and basic water safety skills can significantly reduce the risk of drowning, enhance community safety and build resilient children.

"Swimming and water safety skills have also been found to provide health benefits for children, including social, psychological and physical wellbeing.

This year, Life Saving Victoria has been working with the aquatic industry and Victorian schools to trial a before school swimming and water safety program, as one solution for an effective cost model for the sustainability of school swimming and water safety programs.

The trial is currently being conducted with Year 5 and 6 students at two primary schools in Shepparton, and has already been found to be successful in improving swimming skills of students, including an 11% increase in the proportion of students able to swim 50 metres continuously and overall increases in CPR and lifesaving skills, confidence in the water and enjoyment of swimming lessons.

The Royal Life Saving Society Australia (RLSSA) has previously called for State Governments to ensure swimming becomes a mandatory component of the national curriculum.

Image shows Seaford Beach.

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