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Swim Schools Are NOT Created Equal

Updated: Nov 6, 2020

How much thought have you put into your child’s swim school? Simple question but the answer isn’t always so easy.

When considering academic schools, us parents tend to dive deep. We ask about curriculum, testing, progression milestones, teaching techniques, desired outcomes, certifications, accreditations, on and on and on….

But when choosing swim schools, the questions start to get limited. What are the questions to ask? Two big factors that seem to weigh the most are convenient location and cost. That’s okay though…..swimming is swimming, right? No!!! Swim schools are not created equal and their curriculum and safety standards vary greatly!

Swim School Curriculum varies with each school. Let’s look at some of the most common types:

  1. Swim-Float-Swim: Often referred to as survival swimming lessons or ISR, focus on teaching “self-rescue.” Students learn to hold their breath underwater, propel forward, roll and back float, then roll to propel forward again. Repeat until the child reaches the edge of the pool. This is done typically in a one on one setting. Customers tend to be older babies, toddlers, and young children who do not have the maturity and coordination to learn swim strokes yet.

  2. Water Play/Fun & Water Safety: These schools use water play/fun and water safety as the pillars of their curriculum. Their primary focus is on teaching water safety skills while also teaching swim basics through water play/fun. Their customers tend to be parent/tot up to early childhood level students. Classes are typically taught in small water corrals with low student: instructor ratios. Parent goals include wanting their child to know water safety skills and to have very basic swim skills.

  3. Swim Skill Technique & Water Safety: These schools use water safety skills and high levels of swim stroke skill technique as the pillars of their curriculum. Here, students are exposed to a proper swim stroke technique.  Students learn water safety skills and foundational stroke skills with the goal of stroke mastery and independence. Their customers are typically parent/tot up to early childhood, teen, and adult level students. Classes are usually taught in a recreational sized pool with low student: instructor ratios. Parent goals include wanting their child to know water safety skills and to know how to swim all four strokes correctly and independently. 

  4. Swim Teams/Clubs: Swim teams will sometimes offer swim lessons. The curriculum is focused on swim training. Students typically must be proficient at all four swim strokes and be able to swim independently before joining a swim team learning program. Classes are typically taught at large multilane aquatic centers and have a high student: instructor ratios.

What type is right for your family??? Only you as a parent know what is best for your family. What works for one family doesn’t always work for another. A family might have children attending different types of swim schools depending on their child’s ages and abilities.

Things to consider are your child’s age, maturity level, and physical ability. Are they capable of learning swim strokes or do you need swim-float-swim lessons for the time being to provide your child the ability to self-rescue? Is your main goal for your child to be comfortable around water?

Do you want your child to learn all four swim strokes? Do you have swim team aspirations? These are all important things to consider when deciding which type of swim school is for your child.

Each Swim School has their own safety standards and certifications. There is a wide range of safety standards that are practiced within the swim school industry. There are no child safety requirements of the swim school industry and of those coaching swim lessons. Here are some things to know when evaluating a swim school’s safety standards and protocols:

  1. Some swims schools require all personnel to be Adult & Pediatric CPR, AED, and First Aid Certified and some do not.

  2. Some swim schools have life-saving tools like AEDs on-site and some do not. AEDs are Automated External Defibrillators. When used properly, AEDs can be a vital lifesaving tool that can restore a person’s normal heart rhythm.

  3. Some swim schools have certified lifeguards in an elevated position and some do not.  

  4. Some swim schools have a deck safety manager on duty while classes are taking place to help the in-water instructor keep their classes safe and some do not. Most near-drownings happen at a swim school while the child is waiting for their turn to swim.  

  5. Some swim schools have a high student: instructor ratio. National aquatic safety experts recommend a student: instructor ratio of no more than 4:1.

  6. Some swim schools require their employees to maintain current safety certifications and some do not.

  7. Some swim schools train their employees through a credentialed certification program and some do not.

Wow, that is a lot of safety variation! How can I figure out if an environment is safe for my child? There is no perfect swim school out there but asking safety questions will help you compare swim schools and their safety standards to know which is the best fit for your children.

  1. What certifications do your swim instructors have? Are they from a credentialed source? Is every employee certified in Adult & Pediatric CPR, AED, & First Aid? How do you ensure certifications are maintained current? Can I see a copy of my child’s instructor’s certifications?

  2. Do you have a certified lifeguard in an elevated position and a deck safety manager during lessons to help instructors keep classes safe? How many students are the lifeguard and deck safety manager responsible for? Can I see their certifications?

  3. Do you have an AED on-site and are the staff certified to operate it properly?

  4. What is your student: instructor ratio?

  5. How far away do instructors work students from the students waiting on the dock or stairs?

All Children need to know how to swim and swim schools are a part of that process. Put time and thought into what type and which swim school is the best fit for your family. Ask questions and then ask to see proof of the answers, such as employees are certified in certain areas like CPR and swim safety.

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