Swimming plan ‘could save lives’

IN CLASS: Launceston Swim School's Jodie Lee with Zaria McQueen, 7. The school said a Victorian swimming initiative would help if adopted in Tasmania. Picture: Phillip Biggs

IN CLASS: Launceston Swim School's Jodie Lee with Zaria McQueen, 7. The school said a Victorian swimming initiative would help if adopted in Tasmania. Picture: Phillip Biggs

A Victorian plan to ensure all children can swim 50m by the end of year 6 would help prevent drownings if adopted in Tasmania, a Launceston swim school says.

However it should not focus on the benchmark at the expense of broad education creating awareness of water safety among pupils, Launceston Swim School manager Lindy Crack said.

Victoria has put forward the plan in a push to stop drownings, and will make the 50m benchmark part of the curriculum from next year. 

Mrs Crack said swim education needed to include training for swimming around obstacles, returning to a safe breathing position and other water safety basics.

Safety involved more than ability to swim a certain distance, she said.

“It’s all really great you can swim 50m freestyle, but can you save yourself?”

Pupils in years 3, 4 and 5 in all primary schools can participate in ten consecutive lessons of swimming and water safety annually, an Education Department spokesperson said. 

Students currently take part in a 10-day program at government-owned, council and private swimming pools.

Education Minister Jeremy Rockliff said the safety and well-being of all children was of paramount importance to the government.

The state’s swimming and water safety program was “nation leading”, he said.

Under the state’s swimming and water safety program policy, compulsory instruction in state schools must be available as early as possible, but not later than year 3. Instruction must include aspects of water safety and survival. 

While the program is directed towards years 3, 4 and 5 children, its extension to other years is “desirable where circumstances permit”, the policy says. It aims for children to be able to swim freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke, sidestroke and survival backstroke efficiently for 50 metres each and also to have completed survival swimming for five minutes.

Tasmania had the nation’s highest drowning rate in 2014-2015, recording 1.75 per 100,000 people, according to a Royal Life Saving report.

While Mrs Crack said Victoria’s policy would benefit children, she urged the community to remember drownings occurred at any age. 

“For this reason, it is imperative that water familiarisation and safety lessons should be started at a young age,” she said.

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