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.
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.