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Swim test a sign of 'system gone mad'

Date

Ella Fisher

Swimmer Justin Norris with son Coda and Laurie Lawrence with grand-daughter Evie Reid.

Swimmer Justin Norris with son Coda and Laurie Lawrence with grand-daughter Evie Reid. Photo: Phil Hearne

Water safety campaigner Laurie Lawrence says a controversial new ACT school swimming policy is a sign of a system "going mad".

The former Olympic swimming coach believes a tough new competency test for Canberra students, issued to schools this week, could be counter-productive.

In order to swim, students will be tested to see if they can enter the pool, walk five metres, swim 25 metres, call for help while floating or treading water for one minute, exit the pool unassisted and perform a voice rescue of another buddy.

Students who pass the exam will then wear a blue tag and require 20:1 teacher supervision and those who don't will be given a yellow tag and require 10:1 supervision.

"The system is going mad," he said.

"Surely common sense has got to prevail. You shouldn't need legislation to take kids to swim. You can't put kids in cotton wool forever."

Ten schools have already cancelled end-of-year fun days, which Lawrence said were important for building children's confidence.

"Its really to the detriment of the kids from enjoying the water. Kid's don't just learn to swim from formal lessons, many learn from exploration, just as they do when they learn to walk or ride a bike," Lawrence said.

His concern echoes that of the Royal Life Saving Society, which has called for the ACT Government to reconsider its policy.

Mr Lawrence said schools should ask parents to assist them on swimming carnivals and fun days, keep students in shallow water while they are learning and just be extra careful.

But he said that parents have got to take the responsibility to teach their kids to swim.

"Parents have to realise that summer is here. This is the most dangerous time for kids and lets see if we can get through this summer with no preschool aged deaths."

He recommends parents should take their kids to classes twice a week and then to the pool to explore and practice swimming in shallow water.

15 comments

  • My nephew drowned at a school swimming excursion. The teacher looked the wrong way for a minute, and he was dead. There is no such thing as being too careful!!!

    Commenter
    John
    Date and time
    November 30, 2012, 1:36PM
    • Is there a remote chance the social engineering politically correct ego driven do gooder maniacs in the ACT might listen to this man.

      Commenter
      NITRO GANGSTER
      Location
      ACT
      Date and time
      November 30, 2012, 2:45PM
      • John, condolences about your nephew. Its a tragedy that could be avoided if parents taught their own children water safety. But this article is implying that because some children cannot pass this overly complicated test, then all children are denied their swimming carnival / fun day.
        Accidents happen, they cannot be avoided. But because of this test, schools are afraid of making themselves vulnerable to litigation if any child who has not passed the test has an accident at the pool. The teachers do their best, and if parents are worried about safety, they should attend and help out.

        Commenter
        woppadingo
        Date and time
        November 30, 2012, 3:05PM
        • Sorry but I have disagree with you. Accidents just don't happen, There is always cause and effect. Everything is connected.

          People say, "oh but it was an accident" meaning that they hope that they will not be blamed.

          I agree with this ruling, and it is either the school that teach the children to swim or the parents accept that responsibility, but someone has to teach them to swim. The school has a duty of care.

          Water is a very dangerous environment and it only takes seconds for a child to be injured or drowned.

          If a child is injured or drowned at a school swimming event then who is to blame?

          Take your pick!

          The child?

          The parents?

          The school?

          The event coordinator?

          The teachers supervising the event?

          The parents supervising the event?

          Who!

          Who would you blame and don't say it could be an accident?

          Commenter
          Tc
          Date and time
          December 01, 2012, 10:27AM
      • John, my sympathies too. It must have been a terrible tragedy for everyone.

        But I agree with the article and other comments. As a lifelong keen swimmer who has also worked as a lifeguard, and coach - I think the ACT policy will be counter productive by putting obstacles in the way of potentially hundreds of kids to better develop their skills and abilities from carnivals.

        Its fine for kids of those parents who make the time and effort but there are many that dont for whatever reason and where will those kids learn?

        Commenter
        Guy
        Location
        Sydney
        Date and time
        November 30, 2012, 3:35PM
        • What - they will learn to swim at a school swimming fun day or a swimming event.

          I don't think so.

          Commenter
          Tc
          Date and time
          December 01, 2012, 10:29AM
      • Lets set kids up for more school bullying, blue tags and against yellow tags.

        Commenter
        jane2
        Date and time
        November 30, 2012, 3:35PM
        • I wonder if the braniacs who came up with this hair-brained scheme ever drove their vehicle off a bridge into a creek and were trapped.

          If I happened along I'd have to say "Sorry - not certified in under water vehicle rescue..." - back in 2 days after I've passed my rescue competency test. Just sit tight......

          Where as most people would wade in and try and grab them.

          PC/risk avoidance has gone too far.

          John - condolences regards your nephew.

          Commenter
          Realist
          Date and time
          November 30, 2012, 3:42PM
          • .. drove into a creek ... Did Barnaby Joyce come up with this hare-brained scheme ?

            Yes. That's "hare". Looks like a big rabbit. Not much brains. It's not a scheme contrived by an airhead with "big hair"

            Commenter
            enno
            Location
            sydney
            Date and time
            November 30, 2012, 6:27PM
          • Hares are a most maligned creature - they have brains, they're just scrambled: witness the way a hare zigzags all over the place to escape danger ... Hang on a minute, isn't that the advised method of avoiding being shot ... Must be why there're so many recipes for bunny stew (rabbits tend to run in a straight line escape) versus hare pie.

            Commenter
            not enno
            Date and time
            December 01, 2012, 11:30AM

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