Pri­mary school puts pri­or­ity on build­ing wa­ter safety skills

There was a recorded 18 drown­ings in Jan­uary across the coun­try, 10 up from 2014. South Waikato News re­porter Caitlin Wal­lace in­ves­ti­gates the power of swim­ming ed­u­ca­tion in one Pu­taruru school.

South Waikato News - - NEWS / HE PU¯RONGORONGO -

Eas­ier ac­cess to a pool has done won­ders help­ing chil­dren at Pu­taruru Pri­mary School learn to swim.

The school made an in­vest­ment into a so­lar heated 25 me­tre pool six years ago.

All of the chil­dren, who range from 5 to 11, have daily lessons dur­ing the sum­mer sea­son.

That was com­pared to twice a week at the town pool when they all had to pile onto a bus.

And the fig­ures speak for them­selves. Fig­ures re­vealed 46 per cent of the school’s chil­dren were listed as non- swim­mers in 2009.

Prin­ci­pal Tr­ish Scown saw num­bers drop be­tween 2009 and 2013.

‘‘What we sort of found was we had a lot of chil­dren con­fi­dent in the wa­ter when they would bomb and get out.’’

How­ever she no­ticed not enough chil­dren were con­fi­dent enough to stay in the wa­ter for a long pe­riod or even put their head un­der.

She pre­vi­ously taught at West Pu­taruru Pri­mary where it had a pool but said when the pri­mary schools closed and merged into the one, the chil­dren ended up with­out.

‘‘I didn’t re­alise the im­pact of hav­ing a pool un­til we didn’t have one.’’

Ki­wis­port of­fi­cer, Jo Sul­li­van, vis­ited some South Waikato schools this sum­mer for swim­ming classes.

With 18 drown­ings across the coun­try last month, Sul­li­van was more determined to push the mes­sage of wa­ter safety as well.

‘‘I see swim­ming as a huge pri­or­ity... if they can do it ev­ery day, it’s so much more ben­e­fi­cial than once a week.’’

She said even learn­ing how to hold a swim­ming po­si­tion can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween mak­ing it to safety or drown­ing.

Wa­ter Safety New Zealand chief ex­ec­u­tive Matt Clar­idge said chil­dren should be learn­ing be­fore they start school.

‘‘We be­lieve kids should be in the wa­ter and learn­ing ba­sic wa­ter safety skills by the time they get to school. For preschool­ers the pri­or­ity is hav­ing fun in the wa­ter with mum or dad, be­ing com­fort­able with splash­ing, get­ting their face wet and even duck­ing un­der.’’

The re­gion is on the right track, he said, but money is the bar­rier for im­prove­ment.

‘‘ The Waikato is like many other re­gions around New Zealand, there are a num­ber of ex­cel­lent ini­tia­tives tak­ing place but more work needs to be done and for this and more fund­ing is re­quired.’’

Im­por­tant Skills: Pu­taruru pri­mary stu­dents Kaiya Bar­nett, left and Ay­den Tuhuia can say they are con­fi­dent in the wa­ter thanks to daily lessons in the school pool and Ki­wis­port of­fi­cer Jo Sul­li­van en­cour­ages the ac­tive learn­ing.

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